Perinatal and Infant Oral Health
Perinatal Oral Health
It is normal for the expectant mothers to plan in every aspect to ensure that their unborn baby is in good shape and health. It may come as a surprise that the expectant mothers miss an important aspect while doing so, that is caring for the unborn child’s oral health too. The perinatal period begins around 20-28 weeks into pregnancy which stretches up to 1-4 weeks after the infant is born.
According to the research, the maternal periodontal disease can increase the risk of preterm birth, babies with low birth weight, gestational diabetes, and maternal preeclampsia. Therefore, talking to the doctor or a dentist is recommended to prevent periodontal disease during pregnancy.
Importance of Perinatal Checkups
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) asks the expectant mothers to get regular dental checkups and counseling because maternal cariogenic bacteria lead to several severe problems in infants and children. Practicing a simple oral care routine makes all the difference. They are:
- Brushing with ADA approved fluoridated toothpaste and flossing twice a day keep the harmful bacteria away.
- Scheduling regular appointments with the dentist for a general oral checkup and discussing strategies to eliminate oral bacteria. This boosts the expectant mothers to follow preventive measures at home.
- Following a balanced, a nourished diet during pregnancy (which exclude sugary and starchy food) helps eliminate oral bacteria and reduce the risk if tooth decay
- Expectant mothers chewing on gum that has xylitol has proved to reduce infant and toddler caries.
Infant Oral Health: The AAPD recommends installing a “Dental Home” for your child by one year of age. A child who has a dental home has a better chance at receiving appropriate preventive and routine oral health care.
With following a quality oral care at home, parents can be sure that they are laying a strong foundation for their children’s teeth that will show for years to come. Adhering to the following guidelines helps enhance infant oral health:
Cleaning Gums: An infant is at risk for cavity right after the first tooth emerges. Therefore, gently cleaning the gums with a damp cloth after every feed is important to eliminate oral bacteria and the risk of early cavities.
Brush and Floss: Use an ADA approved toothbrush that comes with soft bristles and a tiny sliver for gentle brushing twice a day. With a pediatric dentist’s advice, flossing can be introduced when two adjacent teeth appear to avoid cavity formation between them.
Pacifiers: Pacifiers prove helpful to soothe infants but it is important to consult with the pediatric dentist and choose a correct model. It is not recommended to dip the pacifiers with honey or other sweetened liquids. Parents are also advised not to share their utensils (like spoon, fork) or clean the pacifier in their mouth because it easily transmits cavity-causing (cariogenic) bacteria.
Drinking Habits: Giving baby bottles and sippy cups to the children are way into their late toddlerhood is a major reason that causes tooth decay. Few more factors like filling the bottle or cups with sugary liquids and the child going to bed with it foster bacterial growth and quicken tooth decay.
Regular Dental checkups: Once the child is around the age of one, he/she must visit the pediatric dentist to get tooth and jaw development monitored and discuss strategies for future oral care.