Today I would like to welcome Dr. Liz, “The Baby Dentist”, to Kindred Spirit Mommy. I recently had the opportunity to have my questions about dental care as it pertains to pregnancy, babies, and toddlers answered by Dr. Liz! I think you’ll be very interested to hear what she has to say on these subjects. Now without further ado, here are my questions and her answers!
Me: How does dental care in the pregnant mommy affect the baby’s dental health in the womb?
Dr. Liz: Dental care during pregnancy is very important for both mommy and baby. Studies indicate that pregnant women with gum disease during pregnancy may have higher rates of miscarriage (pregnancy loss), pre-term birth (delivery before 37 weeks) and low birth weight babies (babies weighing less than 5.5 lbs). It is recommended that all pregnant women get a dental cleaning and check-up at least once during their pregnancy. It is safe for pregnant women to have dental treatment. So, if you are pregnant you should have all your teeth fixed before delivery. You can read more about oral health during pregnancy online at the California Dental Association’s website, there is great information there for the expecting mommy. (Go to: www.cdafoundation.org/learn/perinatal_oral_health)
When a pregnant woman has cavities, there are higher levels of bacteria causing cavities in the mouth. When your baby is born, these bacteria can be passed to the new baby, placing baby at higher risk of getting cavities too. Getting a dental check-up and having all your cavities fixed will increase your baby’s chance of having healthy teeth!
Me: Wow, I didn’t know any of that! I considered going to the dentist when I was pregnant but assumed they wouldn’t be able to do much. I just gave birth to a little boy and will definitely be heading to the dentist ASAP. I don’t want to pass on any bacteria to him and I just love to give him kisses. :)
Me: When should moms start thinking about brushing baby’s teeth? It seems like it’s too early when they have just one or two teeth (especially if they’re still nursing) – but is it?
Dr. Liz: Believe it or not, oral care begins at birth! Even babies with no teeth need their mouths cleaned. Try using a wet washcloth or commercially sold finger wipe to clean out baby’s mouth. Gently wipe down the gums, inside of the cheeks and tongue twice a day to get used to an oral health care routine early. When the first tooth pops in, then switch to a regular child size soft bristled toothbrush. Use a small smear (about the size of a grain of rice) of toothpaste with fluoride to help prevent cavities . It is safe if this small amount of toothpaste is swallowed. Parents should brush once in the morning and right before bed. Remember that all children with teeth can get cavities, regardless if you are breastfeeding or giving your baby infant formula. Once your baby has teeth, it’s important to work on a sleeping schedule so that baby learns to sleep through the night and is fed only during the daytime on a schedule. At nighttime, you should never place a baby in the crib or bed to sleep without brushing their teeth first.
Me: I wish I had known to do that with Emma – she hated having her teeth brushed once her first teeth appeared. Starting early sounds like a great solution!
Me: Do you have any tips or advice to encourage moms whose babies and toddlers HATE having their teeth brushed and fight it tooth and nail?
Dr. Liz: Unfortunately, there is no way around brushing twice a day. My advice is to try to calm yourself down, realize that you’re not hurting your baby by cleaning his mouth and brushing with a soft toothbrush. After all, being a good parent means that sometimes kids don’t want to do what you want them to. I suggest sticking with it, do not back down when baby starts to fuss. If baby is very strong and wiggly then use 2 adults to help out. We like the lap to lap position seen in the photo. This helps hold baby still while the other adult brushes the teeth. And don’t worry, this is a battle you want to pick as a parent and baby will grow out of it.
Me: When is the latest a baby/toddler should see the dentist for the first time?
I am glad you asked! All children should see the dentist when the first tooth erupts or by age one at the latest. When the teeth come in and you call a dentist to make your baby’s first check-up they should gladly make an appointment or refer you to a pediatric dentist (specialist for children). If the dentist you call says they won’t see your baby until he is older like 3 or 4 years old, call another dentist!
Me: Do habits like sucking on a pacifier affect tooth growth and development?
Dr. Liz: Sucking on thumbs, fingers and pacifiers is considered normal for all children 0-6 months old. After this, it quickly becomes a habit that is hard to break. Some kids will have changes in their teeth and the way their teeth bite together. This problem can last into adulthood and is hard to fix with braces. We suggest all children try to stop sucking habits around age 3. But if the dentist tells you there are changes in your child’s teeth due to sucking before age 3, we recommend trying to stop ASAP.
Me: When should we switch to a toothpaste with fluoride?
Dr. Liz: You don’t have to worry about switching toothpastes because all children should be using toothpaste with fluoride as soon as the first tooth erupts according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. There are lots of commercially available toothpastes for children that have yummy flavors like Bubble Gum. The amount of fluoride in adult toothpaste and children’s toothpaste is the same, so if your child likes mint flavor he can use yours! Remember, it’s the amount of toothpaste that’s important. Toothpaste with fluoride should be applied by an adult and only in a small smear, about the size of a grain of rice (Figure 1).
Me: When should we start flossing a toddler’s teeth?
Dr. Liz: Flossing should begin when teeth are touching and contacting. Many children have open spaces between all their teeth. This makes it easier to brush and the toothbrush can reach all surfaces of the teeth. When teeth contact and touch tightly, the toothbrush cannot reach in between the teeth and we see more cavities there. Try the pre-threaded flossers available in stores, see photo in Figure 3. This makes it much easier to floss and should be done at bedtime before brushing.
Thank you for your time, Dr. Liz! I learned a few new things, that’s for sure.