During pregnancy, a mother’s oral health is important to the overall and future oral health of their child. Research shows links between gum disease and other oral infections to low birth weight, pre-term delivery, and preeclampsia. We recommend that mothers have their teeth regularly professionally cleaned by a dental hygienist and get regular checkups with their dentist.
Did you know that dental cavities are an infectious transmittable disease? Bacteria cause cavities. Babies are not born with these bacteria. They get the bacteria when it is shared with them via used cups, spoons, forks etc. From genetic analysis of the bacteria, we know that transmission is between 24-100% from the mother but it can be from other caregivers or children as well. A mother can delay or be less likely to pass cavity-causing bacteria to her baby by doing the following things: maintain good oral hygiene; have cavities treated by a dentist; and limit carbohydrate snacks. Don’t share cups and utensils.
Dental work can be done safely at any time during pregnancy. While the second trimester is the safest time for dental treatment, the risks of not treating an active infection far outweigh the risk of treatment. This includes taking dental x-rays when appropriate.
The first dental check-up should be by age 1 or within 6 months of the first tooth appearing. This recommendation comes from the Canadian Dental Association, American Dental Association, and pretty much every pediatric dental association. The first appointment is mainly for detecting early problems, and providing education. I often see children with cavities by age 2 so it is important to have the first appointment early. At Sun City Dental, we do not charge for dental screening exams for children age 4 and under.
Oral care should start as soon as possible. You can get your baby used to having someone brush their teeth by rubbing their gums with a damp wash cloth. Doing this can also help them when they have pain from teething. Teething gels and anesthetic should not be used because of toxicity when swallowed. Brush baby’s teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day as soon as the first tooth starts coming in. Once a child is 3 or 4 years old they can start to brush their own teeth with the help and supervision of an adult.
Fluoride naturally occurs in water. Medicine Hat water only has a small amount of naturally occurring fluoride. Medicine Hat does not add extra fluoride to tap water, so fluoride toothpaste is a necessity. A smear or grain of rice amount of toothpaste should be used up to age 3 and a pea size thereafter. If an infant or child is using fluoride toothpaste 2 times a day and has professional fluoride applications, a fluoride supplement is generally not recommended.
While excellent for nutrition, breast milk as well as formula or cow’s milk has some potential to cause cavities. Feeding more than 7 times a day after 12 months of age should generally be avoided. Babies should never be put to bed with a bottle containing milk, formula, pop, or juice. Only water. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children age 1-6 drink no more than 4-6 ounces of fruit juice per day and at meals.