The fight against progressive tooth decay in little ones begins before the children are born. How can this be the case? According to FirstDentalVisit.com’s “Dental Health for Mothers,” the presence of untreated caries in mom’s mouth – prenatally – can put her child at risk for severe dental caries.
What Mom Eats…
It makes sense. An expectant mother’s diet provides all the good stuff, from calcium and phosphorous to a range of vitamins and minerals that babies need for their teeth to form – a process that begins just over a month after conception.
According to First 5 Sacramento, diet and dental health deficiencies during pregnancy may cause changes in baby’s tooth formation and leave their teeth at greater risk for decay later in life. So it may not be too surprising to learn that children of mothers who consume sugar in large quantities are four times more likely to suffer from tooth decay than those of moms with low sugar consumption.
Threats of Periodontal Disease during Pregnancy
But the facts go beyond the dietary connection, and a mother’s dental health can affect more than just a growing baby’s teeth.
According to Jennifer Wider, MD, a contributing writer for the Society for Women’s Health Research, a pregnant woman’s increased risk for swelling and inflammation of the gums due to natural hormone fluctuations may cause bacteria to accumulate, leading to gum disease. This may spread beyond the gums, entering the woman’s bloodstream, and potentially causing infections in the baby as well.
Periodontal disease during pregnancy is also linked to problems like preterm birth, low birth weight, and even the risk for mom developing preeclampsia, which can be life-threatening to mom and baby. That’s why brushing and flossing regularly, as well as having your teeth professionally cleaned as early in pregnancy as possible is so important.
Prenatal dental care is about stopping the cycle of cavities. When mothers enter a pattern of getting cavities, research shows their children have a much higher risk of getting cavities, too.
The bacteria in a mother’s mouth are transmittable. Every time she shares a spoon or nibbles a corner of baby’s food, she is sharing cavity-causing bacteria called mutans streptococci. The same goes with kisses. Obviously, mothers can’t raise their babies without a healthy dose of affection – that may prove even more detrimental than a cavity or two. With the facts in mind, just use a mom’s fine-tuned sense of intuition and good judgment!
Here are some helpful tips from First 5 Sacramento to start baby off on a lifetime of good oral health, from the womb on:
- In addition to brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day, use an alcohol and sugar-free, antibacterial mouth rinse in the morning and a fluoridated mouth rinse before bed.
- Prevent potential gum problems with a professional cleaning if you did not do so before finding out you were pregnant.
- Chew gum containing xylitol after each meal.
- Drink water with fluoride. Use toothpaste with fluoride.
- Snack wisely, staying away from sweets and opting for healthier options like fruits, cheese, and whole-grain crackers.
- If you experience frequent vomiting due to morning sickness, rub baking soda and water on the teeth, then brush and floss to prevent tooth erosion.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on post-natal tips for adorable smiles!