Perinatal & Infant Oral Health
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that all pregnant women receive oral healthcare and counseling during pregnancy. Research has shown evidence that periodontal disease can increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. Talk to your doctor or dentist about ways you can prevent periodontal disease during pregnancy.
Additionally, mothers with poor oral health may be at a greater risk of passing the bacteria which causes cavities to their young children. Mothers should follow these simple steps to decrease the risk of spreading cavity-causing bacteria:
- Visit your dentist regularly.
- Brush and floss on a daily basis to reduce bacterial plaque.
- Proper diet, with the reduction of beverages and foods high in sugar & starch.
- Use fluoridated toothpaste recommended by the ADA and rinse every night with an alcohol-free, over-the-counter mouth rinse with .05 % sodium fluoride in order to reduce plaque levels.
- Don’t share utensils, cups, or food which can cause the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria to your children.
- The use of xylitol chewing gum (4 pieces per day by the mother) can decrease a child’s caries rate.
Your Child’s First Dental Visit-Establishing a “Dental Home”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) all recommend establishing a “Dental Home” for your child by one year of age. Children who have a dental home are more likely to receive appropriate preventive and routine oral health care. Mt. Airy Children’s Dental Associates offers early infant oral care as pediatric dentistry services we provide to the public in Mt. Airy, Maryland.
The Dental Home is intended to provide a place other than the Emergency Room for parents.
You can make the first visit to the dentist enjoyable and positive. If old enough, your child should be informed of the visit and told that the dentist and their staff will explain all procedures and answer any questions. The less to-do concerning the visit, the better.
It is best if you refrain from using words around your child that might cause unnecessary fear, such as needle, pull, drill, or hurt. Pediatric dental offices use words that convey the same message but are pleasant and non-frightening to the child.
When Will My Baby Start Getting Teeth?
Teething, the process of baby (primary) teeth coming through the gums into the mouth, varies among individual babies. Some babies get their teeth early, and some get them late. Generally, the first baby teeth to appear are usually the lower front (anterior) teeth, and they usually begin erupting between the ages of 6-8 months.
Early Childhood Caries (Baby Bottle Tooth Decay)
One serious form of decay among young children is baby bottle tooth decay, also referred to by dentists as early childhood caries (ECC). ECC can be caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant’s teeth to liquids that contain sugar. Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice, and other sweetened drinks.
Putting a baby to bed for a nap or at night with a bottle other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay. Sweet liquid pools around the child’s teeth, allowing plaque bacteria to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If you must give the baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water. If your child doesn’t fall asleep without the bottle and its usual beverage, gradually dilute the bottle’s contents with water over a period of two to three weeks.
After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child’s head in your lap, or lay the child on a dressing table or the floor. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child’s mouth easily.
Sippy cups should be used as a training tool from the bottle to a cup and discontinued by the first birthday. If your child uses a sippy cup throughout the day, fill the sippy cup with water only (except at mealtimes). By filling the sippy cup with liquids that contain sugar (including milk, fruit juice, sports drinks, etc.) and allowing a child to drink from it throughout the day, it soaks the child’s teeth in cavity-causing bacteria.
Early Infant Oral Care FAQs
What does an oral care routine look like for a baby?
At-home oral care should start early, even before your baby has teeth. To start, you should be cleaning your baby’s gums every day. After each feeding, you should wipe their gums down with a damp cloth or infant toothbrush to remove bacteria. As their teeth erupt, start brushing them right away with an infant toothbrush. Never give your baby anything sweet in a bottle, especially before bedtime. This will prolong their teeth’s exposure to sugar which will contribute to tooth decay. As they age, we will help you transition your child into caring for their own teeth.
What should I do if my baby is experiencing teething discomfort?
Teething can be painful for your baby. You can try using a cold, damp cloth to massage their gums. There are many kinds of infant toys that you can chill and allow them to chew on. Chewing on teething biscuits or cold foods may also help them find some relief. If you need to, there are over-the-counter teething gels and medications available for purchase.
How will I know if my baby has a dental problem?
Since your baby cannot use words to tell you something is wrong, you should know the signs that they may have a potential dental problem. Things to look for include dark spots on teeth, swollen gums, bleeding gums, bad breath, obvious tooth sensitivity, tooth pain, excessive drooling, changes in chewing habits, and abnormal facial swelling.
Can thumb-sucking or pacifier use affect my baby’s teeth and oral development?
Yes, thumb-sucking and using a pacifier can affect your baby’s teeth. This is especially true if it becomes a prolonged habit. Misaligned teeth are a common problem. Most kids will have an open bite, crossbite, or protruding front teeth. It can also affect jawbone development, cause speech problems, and cause dental arch problems such as a narrow upper arch.
Should I be concerned if my baby’s teeth are not coming in on schedule?
While there is a normal schedule for the eruption of baby teeth, there is also no need to be concerned if your baby is not exactly on schedule. There can be some variation. However, if there is a significant delay, then you should be concerned. If you are taking your baby to the dentist regularly, the dentist will be able to provide the appropriate guidance. If you are concerned, do not hesitate to make an appointment with Mt. Airy Children’s Dental Associates to have your baby evaluated by a pediatric dentist.
Do I need to clean a newborn’s tongue?
Yes. It is important to clean a newborn’s tongue. Cleaning an infant’s tongue will prevent the buildup of bacteria on the tongue, which can lead to infection. However, you should not use a regular toothbrush. Instead, gently wipe down your baby’s tongue after each feed using a soft washcloth or gauze pad with warm water. After wiping down the tongue, you should also use a moist cotton swab to help remove any extra milk formula residue from around and between teeth.