Infant Oral Care

PREGNANCY

Why is this so important for baby teeth? During pregnancy, a woman’s hormone levels rise and gingivitis is common. Serious gum disease in the mother has been linked to low birth-weight babies and premature births. In addition, crowns of the baby teeth are developing in the fetus and chewing surfaces of the permanent molars are beginning to form during pregnancy. A balanced diet and use of prenatal vitamins helps develop healthy teeth, while poor nutrition can be associated with tooth decay.

Tooth cavity causing bacteria can be transmitted to the infant, so it is important to reduce plaque and have teeth free of decay before the birth of a child.

If you are pregnant, be sure to visit your dentist regularly and have your teeth cleaned more often. At birth, bacteria may also be transmitted by a mother kissing her newborn child. Your dentist may recommend the use of a chlorhexidine mouth rinse or products containing xylitol.

INFANT CARE

To prepare your child for eventual tooth cleaning, Dentistry for Kids recommends you begin cleaning your baby’s mouth with a clean damp washcloth even before he or she has teeth. Avoid putting your baby to bed with a bottle, sippy cup or while breastfeeding. This habit may cause cavities when your baby has teeth especially if milk, formula, juice or other sweetened liquid is used. Only water should be put in a bottle or cup if your child cannot fall asleep without it. After breastfeeding your baby, wipe the gums with a damp washcloth as soon as he or she falls asleep and stops sucking. Sharing items such as spoons, pacifiers, toothbrushes and toys can spread cavity-causing germs between caregiver and baby and between babies themselves.

Start a habit of brushing twice a day when the first tooth comes in. Use soft-bristled toothbrushes designed for babies with water or a very small amount of non-fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoride containing toothpaste can be used when your child can effectively spit. Consult your pediatrician or pediatric dentist about other sources of fluoride supplementation for your child.

It is normal for a baby to cry while tooth brushing. Babies also cry when they are bathed, dressed or changed. Be calm and methodical while continuing to give proper care to your child’s teeth.

With time he or she will appreciate your gentle attention to their teeth and will allow you to clean without protest.

TEETHING

When teeth begin erupting, some babies have sore or tender gums and may complain. Gently rubbing your child’s gums with a clean finger or a wet washcloth can be soothing. You can also give your baby a clean teething ring to chew on, but never dipped in sugar or syrup. If your child is still uncomfortable, consult your dentist or physician.

Contrary to common belief, fever is not normal for a teething baby. If your infant has an unusually high or persistent fever while teething, call your physician.