We all know the general importance of great oral health care. Gum disease affects 47.2% of adults over age 30, and children with poor oral health are three times more likely to miss school because of dental pain. While it’s recommended to go for a dental check-up every six months, there’s a lot more to oral health care than visiting your dentist twice a year. It all starts at home, and good dental hygiene practices must be learned from a young age. In fact, the benefits of good oral health begin well before a baby is even born. Below we will explore what expecting mothers can do to maintain a healthy mouth during pregnancy and how new parents can care for their infants’ teeth and gums.

For Pregnant Mamas

Oral health affects your general health, and that’s especially important while you are nurturing and sustaining a new life inside your own body. Consider the following tips to keep your mouth, gums, and teeth healthy during pregnancy.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time. Use fluoride toothpaste and remember to floss every day.
  • Stick to healthy foods with low sugar content. Some of the best foods for your teeth include vegetables, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Visit your dentist as recommended. Routine dental work is safe during pregnancy, but make sure to inform your dentist that you are pregnant and about any changes you’ve noticed in your health.
  • If you are vomiting due to morning sickness, rinse your mouth with baking soda and water rather than brushing your teeth immediately after. The stomach acid that comes up can deteriorate tooth enamel.
  • Additionally, a dentist may suggest using mouth rinse to control plaque buildup.
  • Finally, drink water that contains fluoride to strengthen enamel and protect against tooth decay.

Oral health is especially critical during pregnancy. According to the CDC, cavity-causing bacteria during pregnancy can transfer to a fetus in the womb and even to a baby after birth. Exposure to these bacteria may lead to childhood cavities and the need for extensive dental care at a very young age. Furthermore, gum disease in pregnant women has also been associated with preterm birth and low birth weight. Though it should be noted that how gum disease may lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes is not yet fully understood in the medical community.

For Baby

It’s never too early to begin practicing healthy dental hygiene habits. Your baby may not yet have any visible teeth, but just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. A baby’s 20 primary teeth are already present in the jaw at birth. These “baby teeth” typically start erupting through the gums between four and six months of age. Tooth decay is actually the most common childhood disease; it’s 20 times more common than diabetes and five times more common than childhood asthma. In fact, over 40% of children have cavities by the time they enter kindergarten. So, what can you do to protect your infant’s tiny teeth? Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Only fill bottles with plain water, formula, milk, or breast milk. Never put sugary substances in a bottle like sweetened water, juice, or soda.
  • Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle.
  • Only use clean pacifiers.
  • Clean your baby’s gums after feeding by gently massaging the gum tissue with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth.
  • Avoid sharing saliva with your baby. Tooth decay is a transmissible disease, so refrain from sharing utensils or cleaning a pacifier or checking bottle temperature with your mouth.

When your baby’s first tooth emerges, it’s time to visit the dentist. At that point, your pediatric dentist will guide you through the best dental care practices for children. But don’t wait until you start seeing the teeth to take care of them. Remember that children have a tendency to put anything and everything in their mouths. It’s especially important to keep a clean home during this time, particularly since evidence has shown that the novel coronavirus can survive on some surfaces for up to three days. Clean surfaces and your baby’s gums regularly. Starting a routine early will put your child on the path to a healthy smile from the very start.