When you discover that you’re pregnant, it’s an exciting time. It’s also intimidating, considering you must consider your child’s dental and overall health. The term “perinatal” refers to the period between twenty and twenty-eight weeks of pregnancy. The perinatal period also extends up to four weeks after birth. Preparing for your child’s birth is daunting, and most mothers aren’t considering dental checkups.
It is suggested that there is a link between periodontal disease (diseases of the gums) in mothers and premature babies. Babies with low birth weight, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes are also at risk for gum disease. If the mother maintains her oral health, the baby can have good oral health too.
Perinatal Checkups and Why They’re Important
Cariogenic bacteria in mothers is linked with adverse outcomes for babies and children. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests that pregnant women get regular checkups and counseling to prevent, intervene, and treat any possible problems.
What are some tips for oral perinatal care?
- Flossing and Brushing – Use ADA-approved toothpaste twice daily and floss once daily. Brushing and flossing eliminate harmful bacteria. Using an alcohol-free mouthwash daily is another level of care for your mouth.
- Chewing Gum – Xylitol has been proven to reduce cavities in infants and young children when mothers chew gum daily. When looking for gum to chew, look for one that contains xylitol. So far, no other artificial sweetener has been proven to provide the same benefits.
- Proper Diet – Monitoring and maintaining a proper diet while pregnant is good for the baby’s overall health. It’s also good for your baby’s oral health. Keeping a record of what you eat, cutting back on sugary food, and cutting back on starches are reasonable steps. Sugars and starches are breeding grounds for oral bacteria and pose a risk of tooth decay.
Consistent Dental Appointments – Ensuring that you visit your dentist regularly while pregnant is an excellent way to boost what you’re doing at home and gain insight into more that you can do. While there, you can also ensure that your teeth are in good shape and you don’t have any oral or gum disease.
Caring for Your Infant’s Teeth
Cavity-causing bacteria can be passed from the parent to the child, and most parents aren’t aware of this fact. Cavities often happen when sharing utensils and “cleaning” pacifiers with your mouth. Using different utensils than your child and rinsing pacifiers under running water is suggested to prevent transmission of cariogenic bacteria.
There are other ways to ensure your child’s oral health:
- Brushing your child’s teeth– Brush your child’s twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a minute sliver of non-fluoride toothpaste.
- Flossing your child’s teeth– Cavities can form between the teeth as soon as two form next to each other. Consult with your dentist before flossing your child’s teeth.
- Pacifiers – Pacifiers are a great tool to soothe your child. Orthodontically correct pacifiers are suggested. Dipping your pacifier in honey or other sweet liquids can cause cavities, so talk to your pediatric dentist when using pacifiers with any liquid.
- Using glasses instead of bottles – Bottles and sippy cups can put your child at risk for cavities and gum disease. Bottles and sippy cups allow small amounts of liquid to fill the mouth. Using sugary liquids such as milk, soda, juice, formula, breast milk, or sweetened water causes the liquid to swirl in the mouth. The liquids foster the growth of bacteria and speed up tooth decay. Until your child’s first birthday, only offer water in sippy cups.
- Pediatric Dentists – Finding a pediatric dentist is essential after your child’s first birthday. The pediatric dentist can ensure that your child’s teeth and jaw are developing correctly and provide insight into future oral health.
- Gum Wiping – As soon as the first tooth grows, your baby can be at risk for cavities. For infants, wiping the gums with a damp cloth after they eat is essential. Wiping the gums wipes away the bacteria in the mouth and reduces the risk of cavities.
Speaking to Your Dentist About Infant Oral Health
Having a baby is a beautiful time in your life, and your pediatric dentist can guide you through the trials of infant oral health.