Pregnancy can be an exciting time for any family and we all want to make sure our soon to be born child gets off to the best start possible. Pregnancy can also be a very busy time for expectant mothers and often the oral health of the new child can be overlooked and put on the backburner, especially because the teeth are many months away from erupting, however considering your child’s oral health can begin even before giving birth.
To prepare for your child’s oral health, you can take the following steps:
- Visit a dentist: Schedule a visit to a dentist during your pregnancy to make sure you have good oral health before your baby is born. We are not born with the bad bacteria that causes cavities (S. Mutans), but we mainly acquire it from our parents in a process called vertical transmission. S. Mutans can be passed on from one person to the next through the transfer of saliva. This bacteria has been known to spread by blowing on a baby’s food, sharing utensils, and even kissing your child on the lips. Reducing the bacterial load in your oral flora will aid in prevention of cavities in your newborn later in life.
Expectant mothers are also at risk for a condition called pregnancy gingivitis. Pregnancy gingivitis is a type of gum disease that occurs in pregnant women. It is caused by hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy, which can cause the gums to become more sensitive to plaque and bacteria. Pregnancy gingivitis typically begins in the second or third month of pregnancy and can worsen as the pregnancy progresses. Symptoms may include red, swollen, and tender gums that bleed easily when brushing or flossing. Pregnancy gingivitis has been found to have a significant association with adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as premature delivery or low-birth-weight (LBW) babies.
- Consider your child’s oral tissues: some times a child is born with a condition called Ankyloglossia, or tongue-tie / lip-tie or a combination of both. This can cause many issues with your young baby from inability to latch to problems with the growth and development of cranial-facial structures, sleep and breathing issues and can even create symptoms similar to ADHD. Early detection and correction is crucial to prevent these growth and development issues. If you believe your child might have a lip and/or tongue tie you should make an appointment with a pediatric dentist as soon as you can.
- Start brushing: As soon as your child has teeth, start brushing them with a soft-bristled brush and water.
- Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle: This can cause tooth decay. Instead, offer a bottle of water.
- Teach healthy habits: Teach your child to brush their teeth twice a day, floss daily, and eat a healthy diet that is low in sugary and acidic foods. We have a handy snack guide to help you and your child make healthy decisions.
- Schedule dental check-ups: Take your child to the dentist for regular check-ups, starting around their first birthday or when their first tooth appears, whichever happens first. Most of the first visits are going to be informational and making sure to put fluoride on your child’s teeth to make sure they are strong and protected from acid made by plaque.
- Consider fluoride treatments: Ask your dentist about fluoride treatments, which can help strengthen your child’s teeth and prevent cavities.
Remember to always follow your dentist’s recommendations to ensure your child’s oral health stays in good condition.