Babyhood is a crucial time to prioritize
oral health for both mother and child.
Most women who are pregnant are more attentive to their bodily health: attending classes, exercising more, changing their diet and eliminating tobacco. But there are other things to consider as well.
You may not think that this has anything to do with oral health, but the first thing to consider during infancy is deciding to breastfeed for six months (or not).
A recent study from Pediatrics found babies exclusively breastfed for six months were 72% less likely to have crooked teeth, also known as malocclusion, than babies who breastfed for less than six months or not at all. The American Dental Association asserts that this doesn’t mean your fully breastfed baby won’t need braces someday, but it can help reduce that need.
Breastfeeding also reduces the risk for baby-bottle tooth decay, which occurs when a baby is put to bed with a bottle filled with something other than water.
However, even if you breastfeed, mother’s milk still contains sugar, and an oral care routine should begin a few days after your newborn arrives.
Remember to gently wipe down your baby’s gums with a clean damp washcloth after each feeding. Brushing should start as soon as teeth begin to appear, with a rice sized amount of baby-friendly fluoridated paste. Brush your child’s teeth both morning and evening, and focus the toothbrush along the gum line.
It is essential to take care of your child’s baby teeth. We know, they’ll eventually fall out – but healthy baby teeth act as space maintainers for permanent teeth, improve a child’s self-esteem, and aid speech development. Untreated problems in baby teeth can compromise oral health into adulthood, and for life.
Dental disease is 100 percent preventable. It’s also the most chronic disease among children in the United States.
Caring for your newborn’s teeth will pay off in the long run, literally. Baby tooth decay can lead to more orthodontic treatment than would be necessary, which is very expensive. Also, treating your baby’s teeth with care can help prevent the need for other dental expenses: speech therapy, root canals, crowns, extractions, implants, and more.
Bottom line? The best health habits start with the parents.
If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, take care of yourself and your oral health first. Plan on sharing your healthy lifestyle habits with your child, from day one.