Things to look out for during pregnancy
Every woman wants to maintain their own health during pregnancy and to take whatever steps are necessary to give the baby the best possible start. And there are a few factors in your oral health to look out for during this time.
One consideration is that its common for pregnant women to have the urge to eat between meals. The risk is that frequent snacking on carbohydrate-containing foods can encourage tooth decay.
Bacteria in your mouth called plaque can convert the sugar and starch in your mouth into an acid that attacks tooth enamel. After repeated attacks, tooth decay can result.
So, when you need a snack, try to choose foods that are nutritious for you and your baby such as raw fruits and vegetables and dairy products.
During pregnancy, your bodys hormone levels rise considerably. Gum problems, such as gingivitis, are especially common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy. They may cause red, puffy or tender gums that bleed when you brush.
This is an exaggerated response to plaque caused by higher levels of progesterone in your system. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings at some stages to help you avoid problems.
Occasionally overgrowths of gum tissue, called pregnancy tumors, appear on the gums during the second trimester. These localized growths or swellings are usually found between the teeth and are thought to be related to excess plaque. They bleed easily and are often surgically removed after the baby is born.
Studies indicate that pregnant women who have severe periodontal (gum) disease may be at increased risk for pre-term delivery, which in turn increases the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby. It is particularly important to maintain good oral health during pregnancy. Make sure you clean your teeth carefully and visit your dentist regularly.
Taking care of your teeth and gums during pregnancy
Your oral health is an important part of your overall health, and this is never more true than during pregnancy. Good oral health habits not only help prevent oral problems during pregnancy, they also help the health of your unborn child.
What you eat during your pregnancy affects the development of your unborn child — including teeth. Eating a balanced diet is necessary to provide the correct amounts of nutrients to nourish both you and your child.
Your baby’s teeth begin to develop between the third and sixth month of pregnancy, so it is important that you receive sufficient nutrients especially calcium, protein, phosphorous, and vitamins A, C, and D.
There is a common myth that calcium is lost from the mothers teeth during pregnancy. In fact, the calcium your baby needs is provided by your diet, not by your teeth. If your diet does not provide enough calcium, your body will provide this mineral from stores in your bones. If you have an adequate intake of dairy products the main source of calcium or take any supplements your obstetrician recommends this will help you get the calcium you need.
To help prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease, brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque. Be sure to clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.
Make regular visits to your dentist during your pregnancy to ensure the best possible health for you and your baby.
Preventing tooth decay in babies and infants
The habits of good dental care should begin as early as possible and its important to take steps to avoid problems with infants and children. Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food and baby teeth also keep a space in the jaw for the adult teeth.
If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. So, when it’s time for the adult teeth to come in, there may not be enough room. This can make the teeth crooked or crowded.
The name given to decay in infants and children is baby bottle tooth decay. It can destroy the teeth and most often occurs in the upper front teeth – though other teeth may also be affected.
Decay can happen when sweetened liquids are given to an infant and are then left clinging to their teeth for long periods. Many sweet liquids cause problems, including milk, formula and fruit juice. What happens is that bacteria in the mouth use these sugars as food and then produce acids that attack the teeth.
It’s not just what you put in your child’s bottle that causes decay, but how often. Giving your child a bottle of sweetened liquid many times a day isn’t a good idea.
Here are some tips to avoid baby bottle tooth decay in your children:
- After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad. Begin brushing your child’s teeth when the first tooth erupts. Clean and massage gums in areas that remain toothless, and begin flossing when all the baby teeth have erupted, usually by age 2 or 3.
- Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquids.
- If your child needs a comforter between regular feedings, at night, or during naps, give them a clean pacifier recommended by your dentist or physician. Never give your child a pacifier dipped in any sweet liquid.
- Avoid filling your child’s bottle with liquids such as sugar water and soft drinks.
- If your local water supply does not contain fluoride (a substance that helps prevent tooth decay), ask your dentist how your child should get it.
Start dental visits by the child’s first birthday and make visits regularly.
If you think your child has dental problems, take the child to the dentist as soon as possible.
How a baby’s first teeth develop
A newly born baby usually has no teeth visible but most have begun to develop primary or baby teeth. These generally begin to appear about six months after birth.
Over their first few years, they will develop all 20 primary teeth and will usually have them all in place by age three.
The teething process is uncomfortable for many babies and they can become sleepless and irritable. They also might lose their appetite or drool more than usual.
If your infant has a fever or diarrhea while teething or continues to be cranky and uncomfortable, call your physician.
Sometimes when a tooth erupts, an eruption cyst may develop. The tooth will eventually rupture this as it pushes through the gums and these cysts are usually harmless and should be left alone.
If a baby has sore or tender gums when they are teething, it can help to gently rub the gum with a clean finger, a small, cool spoon or a wet gauze pad. When this happens, your dentist or pediatrician may also suggest a pacifier, teething ring or a special numbing salve for the gums.
When the teeth begin to erupt, you should brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a little water to prevent tooth decay.
Toothpaste is not recommended until a child reaches age two. When a child begins using toothpaste, you need to supervise the brushing to make sure they don’t swallow it. Regular dental checks should begin after your child’s first tooth appears or by their first birthday.