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Caring for your child’s teeth before birth

Eating Right

During the 9 months of pregnancy, the baby depends entirely on the mother for nourishment.

Teeth and bones require calcium, phosphorus and other vitamins that can be obtained from the four food groups. Obtaining a balanced diet throughout pregnancy will ensure the baby is receiving essential nutrients for growth and development. Expectant mothers should consult with their obstetrician or a dietician to ensure that a healthy diet is maintained throughout pregnancy.

Specifically diets should be analyzed to determine if the proper amount of calcium, phosphorous and vitamins A, C, and D are being ingested. Calcium and phosphorous are major mineral components of teeth. Vitamins C and D aid in the absorption and deposition of calcium and phosphorous. Vitamin A is required for the differentiation and maintenance of the cells that form enamel and dentin. Both vitamins A and C are needed for healthy gingival tissues.

Folic acid - vitamin B9 contributes to a healthy pregnancy. Many authorities advocate that mothers-in-waiting take 0.4mg of folic each day, starting 3 to 4 months before pregnancy begins. The current thinking believes that  folic acid supplementation protects the developing baby against various birth defects of the spine and brain, called neural-tube defects. The first four to six weeks is extremely important in helping to prevent cleft palates and lips.

In conclusion be careful with vitamin, mineral and herb supplementation. Don’t self medicate with large or unusual combinations because birth defects can result. Eat a well balanced diet and take one multivitamin or a prenatal vitamin each day and consult your obstetrician. At Kids Dental, prenatal counseling is an important priority, because it improves the oral health of mother and child. Maternal diet, self-care, and lifestyle can affect the offspring’s oral health.

Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene

Expectant mothers should keep their regular dental schedule. Meticulous oral hygiene will help to produce a healthy and happy baby.
An important link has been found between maternal gum disease and premature low birth weight babies.  For example, oral infections such as periodontal disease can cause an increase in the level of prostaglandin, a maternal hormone.  Prostaglandins are also a powerful hormone that can be used to induce labor.  Thus periodontal disease in an expectant mother can cause an increase in the level of prostaglandin and trigger premature delivery.

Things That May Happen to the Expectant Mother That Affect the Baby's Teeth

A fever or virus or any sort of infection during pregnancy could affect the quality and quantity of tooth structure, that is forming in the fetus. The natural balance of calcium and phosphorus in the mother's bloodstream becomes distorted and can interfere with tooth formation until the mother becomes healthy again.

If a baby is born before term, there is a possibility that the child's teeth will be affected.  Full-term babies are found to have fewer cavities than preterm babies. This is likely due the fact that the teeth are likely mineralizing just around the time of birth and are most susceptible to decay.

Caring for your new baby

What to do Before the Teeth Come in

One of the most important things to do as a parent is to keep good oral hygiene for their child and themselves.

Babies are not born with bacteria in their mouths. In fact, bacteria are transferred to the baby by everyday contact such as cuddling, kissing, feeding and playing. Therefore, parents should be very mindful to keep excellent oral hygiene and reduce the number of microorganisms in their own mouths.

Sucking Habits
It is totally normal for your baby to suck on a thumb, finger or pacifier. It is a comforting and healthy habit that originated as a natural reflex in the womb. Usually by the age of 4 to 5 years most children overcome this habit, however in other instances they may not and this can lead to:
  • Protruding upper front teeth
  • Misalignment of the upper and lower jaws
  • Malformation of the upper palate
Remember that the amount of damage relates to the frequency, intensity and duration of the habit. Stress is often the underlying reason for continuance of this habit. When a parent discovers why the child is sucking, a solution can often be formulated to address it. When the stressor is eliminated the child is more open minded and cooperative in giving up the habit.

Concerning the issue between the thumb versus pacifier debate, Kids Dental recommends the pacifier.  The pacifier habit is easier to break because parents can control the timeline. In addition the pacifier is a good alternative to the comfort bottle of formula, milk, or juice that parents give their babies at bedtime. Going to bed with a bottle is definitely a bad idea as it can result in severe tooth decay.

In conclusion for children after the age of 6 that continue to suck it is important to note that something may be bothering them. Identification of the stressor is the first step in helping the child deal with the problem. Sucking helps children deal emotionally with many complex issues and in many instances restoring a dental problem is easier than addressing an injured psyche.

Pacifier Tips
  • Never dip the pacifier in anything sweet like honey.
  • Never attach a pacifier to a cord, string or a ribbon for fear of strangulation.
  • Never replace a bottle nipple for a pacifier.
Discard pacifiers that demonstrate signs of wear or breakdown. Bulbs that are swollen, cracked or sticky should be discarded. The pacifiers shield should be wider than the baby’s mouth to prevent choking. Finally never leave a child unattended with a pacifier or let an infant sleep with a pacifier.

Nursing and it's Effect on Baby Teeth
Nursing is a way of educating the baby's lips, cheeks, tongue and jaw to develop more mature ways of handling fuel for the body.

Dental Medications and Breast-feeding

A nursing mother may be concerned about the effects of medications on her infant's health.  There may be risks to a baby's health when a mother takes certain medications as most medications appear in the breast milk a few hours after taking them.  It is important for the nursing mother to discuss the risks and benefits of each medication with the dentist or physician before using it.

The amount of medication appearing in breast milk depends on the drug's characteristics as well as the characteristics of the mother's breast milk (i.e. rate at which milk is produced, blood flow to the breast).  A nursing infant will receive approximately 1% of the mother's drug dose.

Some tips to follow to minimize the amount of medication in breast milk:
  1. Try breast- feeding immediately before or shortly after taking the drug
  2. Maximal doses of drugs appear in breast milk one to three hours after ingestion
The following dental medications are compatible with breast-feeding and are considered safe:

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