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Perinatal and Infant Oral Health

Pregnancy is an exciting time. It is also a crucially important time for the unborn child’s oral and overall health.  The “perinatal” period begins approximately 20-28 weeks into the pregnancy, and ends 1-4 weeks after the infant is born.  With so much to do to prepare for the new arrival, a dental checkup is often the last thing on an expectant mother’s mind.

Research shows, however, that there are links between maternal periodontal disease (gum disease) and premature babies, babies with low birth weight, maternal preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes.  It is of paramount importance therefore, for mothers to maintain excellent oral health throughout the entire pregnancy.

Why are perinatal dental checkups important?

Maternal cariogenic bacteria is linked with a wide range of adverse outcomes for infants and young children.  For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) advises expectant mothers to get dental checkups and counseling regularly, for the purposes of prevention, intervention, and treatment.

Here are some perinatal oral care tips for expectant mothers:

  • Brush and floss – Be sure to use an ADA approved, fluoridated toothpaste at least twice each day, and floss at least once each day, to eliminate harmful oral bacteria.  In addition, an alcohol-free mouthwash should be used on a daily basis.
  • Chew gum – Xylitol, a natural substance, has been shown to reduce infant and toddler caries (cavities) when chewed 3-5 times daily by the expectant mother.  When choosing gum, check for the “xylitol” ingredient – no other sugar substitute has proven to be beneficial in clinical studies.
  • Diet evaluation – Maintaining a balanced, nourishing diet is always important, but particularly so during pregnancy.  Make a food eating diary and look for ways to cut down on sugary and starchy foods.  Sugars and starches provide food for oral bacteria, and also increase the risk of tooth decay.
  • Make regular dental appointments – When seen regularly, the dentist can bolster homecare preventative efforts and provide excellent advice.  The dentist is able to check the general condition of teeth and provide strategies for reducing oral bacteria.

How can I care for my infant’s gums and teeth?

Many parents do not realize that cavity-causing (cariogenic) bacteria can be transmitted from the mother or father to the child.  This transmission happens via the sharing of eating utensils and the “cleaning” of pacifiers in the parent’s mouth.  Parents should endeavor to use different eating utensils from their infants and to rinse pacifiers with warm water as opposed to sucking them.

Parents should also adhere to the following guidelines to enhance infant oral health:

  • Brush – Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a tiny sliver of ADA approved non-fluoridated toothpaste (for children under two), gently brush the teeth twice each day.
  • Floss – As soon as two adjacent teeth appear in the infant’s mouth, cavities can form between the teeth.  Ask the pediatric dentist for advice on the best way to floss the infant’s teeth.
  • Pacifier use – Pacifiers are a soothing tool for infants.  If you decide to purchase a pacifier, choose an orthodontically correct model (you can ask the pediatric dentist for recommendations).  Be sure not to dip pacifiers in honey or any other sweet liquid.
  • Use drinking glasses – Baby bottles and sippy cups are largely responsible for infant and toddler tooth decay.  Both permit a small amount of liquid to repeatedly enter the mouth.  Consequently, sugary liquid (milk, soda, juice, formula, breast milk or sweetened water) is constantly swilling around in the infant’s mouth, fostering bacterial growth and expediting tooth decay.  Only offer water in sippy cups, and discontinue their use after the infant’s first birthday.
  • Visit the pediatric dentist – Around the age of one, the infant should visit a pediatric dentist for a “well baby” appointment.  The pediatric dentist will examine tooth and jaw development, and provide strategies for future oral care.
  • Wipe gums – The infant is at risk for early cavities as soon as the first tooth emerges.  For young infants, wipe the gums with a damp cloth after every feeding.  This reduces oral bacteria and minimizes the risk of early cavities.

If you have further questions about perinatal or infant oral care, please contact your pediatric dentist.

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Testimonials

I just wanted to send an update.
We got Sidney's tongue tie and lip tie revised 2 weeks ago today. Her top lip is looking great, she has great mobility and the stretches have really helped her lip muscles loosen up. I'm so pleased with the results.
Her tongue has gotten hard to stretch as she has figured out how to wiggle her tongue around to avoid the fingers, which I'm taking as a great sign. She's really learning how to move it around. When I eventually get under her tongue, there seems to be a bit of reattachment/regrowth, but since the mobility is there I'm not concerned. Just more motivation to keep up on the stretches, which she only mildly complains about these days.
I'm so happy to have a skilled dentist here in town to help her little mouth out. Keep up the good work.

Callie S.

Dear Dr. Boldt,
We've just made it to the two week mark since our tongue tie and upper lip revision with you. I just wanted to thank you for doing such a thorough revision and going deep enough to really make a difference. Since the night of the revision my son Denzel (5.5 months) began sleeping 9 hours continuously out of 12 through the night (as opposed to his usual 3-4 before needing to nurse) he also began pooping daily as opposed to every few days. Nursing is now pain free and his upper lip is no longer STIFF. I am so grateful to have someone in Edmonton skilled enough to understand and rectify his tt with Laser.

Denzel's Mom

Great experience! The staff are wonderful and it was easy to get an appointment at a time that suited us. My kids (5&7) loved the video games in the waiting area and the TV on the ceiling in the exam room.

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