Pregnancy is an exciting time! With so much to do to prepare for the new arrival, a dental checkup is often the last thing on an expectant mother’s mind. However, an unborn child’s oral and overall health can be affected during pregnancy. Research shows that there are links between maternal periodontal disease (gum disease) and premature babies, babies with low birth weight, maternal preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes. Therefore, it is crucial for expectant mothers to receive regular dental check-ups and to maintain excellent oral health throughout pregnancy.
How can I maintain good oral health while pregnant?
The “perinatal” period begins approximately 20-28 weeks into the pregnancy, and ends 1-4 weeks after the infant is born. Here are some perinatal oral care tips for expectant mothers:
Brush and floss – Be sure to use an American Dental Association (ADA) approved, fluoridated toothpaste at least twice each day, and floss at least once each day, to eliminate harmful oral bacteria. If you are considering using an alcohol-free mouthwash, consult with Dr. Day to find out whether it is necessary.
Chew gum – Xylitol, a natural substance, has been shown to reduce infant and toddler cavities when chewed 3-5 times daily by the expectant mother. When choosing gum, check for the “xylitol” ingredient – no other sugar substitute has proven to be beneficial in clinical studies.
Diet evaluation – Maintaining a healthy, balanced, nutrient-rich diet is always important, but particularly so during pregnancy. Sugars and starches provide food for oral bacteria, and also increase the risk of tooth decay.
Make regular dental appointments – If you are seen regularly, Dr. Day and his team can provide excellent advice for homecare and preventative efforts. Dr. Day can check the general condition of your teeth and provide strategies for reducing oral bacteria.
How can I care for my infant’s gums and teeth?
Parents should follow these procedures to ensure good infant oral health:
Wipe gums – For young infants, you may wipe the gums with a clean, damp cloth after every feeding. This reduces oral bacteria and minimizes the risk of early cavities.
Wipe teeth - The first baby teeth can be gently cleaned with a soft, clean cloth to reduce the risk of bacterial infection.
Brush – For children under two years old, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a tiny, pea-sized amount of American Dental Association (ADA) approved non-fluoridated toothpaste and gently brush the teeth twice each day. The same amount of fluoridated ADA-approved toothpaste may be used for children two-years-old and older.
Floss – As soon as two adjacent teeth appear in the infant’s mouth, cavities can form between the teeth. Ask Dr. Day and his team for advice on the best way to floss your baby's teeth.
Pacifier use – Pacifiers are a soothing tool for infants, but can affect future oral health. If you decide to purchase a pacifier, choose an orthodontically correct model. Be sure not to dip pacifiers in honey or any other sweet liquid.
Use drinking glasses – Baby bottles and sippy cups are largely responsible for infant and toddler tooth decay. Both permit a small amount of liquid to repeatedly enter the mouth. Consequently, sugary liquid (milk, soda, juice, formula, breast milk or sweetened water) is constantly swishing around in the infant’s mouth, fostering bacterial growth and tooth decay. Only offer water in sippy cups, and begin practicing using a regular cup after your baby's first birthday.
Visit the dentist – Around the age of one, your baby should visit our office for a “well baby” appointment. If you child is ready, Dr. Day will examine tooth and jaw development, and provide strategies for future oral care.
If you have questions about perinatal or infant oral care, please feel free to contact our office at 517-393-8500.
Day Family Dental
Dr. Nathan Day, DMD • Dentist • Lansing, MI