Mommy's Time Out Magazine November Issue - Page 23


Moms play a big role in prevention of dental disease

By: Maribel Santos-Cordero, DMD

Board Certified Pediatric Dentist

Dentistry for Children & Adolescents

Pregnancy and your baby’s first year are very significant events in your life. Taking good care of your nutrition and oral health will get your baby ready for a healthy start. Primary teeth start developing three months after conception. Strive for a well-balanced diet. A diet rich in nutrients like vitamin A, C and D, protein, calcium and phosphorous is essential to your baby’s well-being. Having nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy may cause premature birth and low birth weight. Some enamel defects are common with low birth weight or illness in the newborn infant.

Taking care of your mouth during and after pregnancy is important not just for your own sake but also for your baby. The changing hormone levels that occur with pregnancy can exaggerate some dental problems like tooth decay and gingivitis. You can prevent gingivitis – an inflammation of the gums that causes bleeding, swelling and tenderness - by keeping your teeth clean of plaque around the gumline. Pregnant women may be more prone to neglect oral hygiene due to morning sickness, more sensitive gag-reflex, tender gums and exhaustion. To help prevent tooth decay, brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss at least once a day. If you suffer from frequent vomiting during pregnancy, the acids in your mouth may cause enamel erosion. Try to neutralize these acids by brushing with baking soda toothpaste.

Tooth decay is caused by a bacterial infection. You can spread it from one person to another during the window of infectivity, which is during infancy. Strept Mutans, the cavity-causing bacteria, can be transferred by sharing food and utensils with your baby once the first tooth comes in. Blowing on food and even kissing your child on the mouth may also transfer the bacteria.

Dental cavities result from a combination of factors including the transfer of infectious bacteria, genetics, oral hygiene and feeding practices. Parents have control of most of these factors with the exception of genetics. You can’t change tooth defects, crowded teeth or how acidic your child’s saliva is; however, you have total control of what and how often your child eats. Breastmilk in itself does not produce cavities. It is only when in combination with a regular diet that cavities may form. A baby that goes to bed with a bottle or is allowed to constantly suck on a sippy cup with juice or milk will be exposed to frequent acid attacks from the bacteria in plaque. You are also in control oral hygiene. Focus on preventive care. Brush as soon as the first tooth appears and start flossing when there are no spaces in-between the teeth. You can help reduce oral bacteria in your mouth by chewing xylitol gum and wiping your baby’s mouth regularly.

Given the right conditions, dental cavities can form as soon as the first tooth appears. Early childhood caries (ECC) is a condition that destroys the teeth of an infant or young child. In my 22 years of practice, the youngest patient I have had with ECC was only 18 months old. Cavities may start as white decalcification spots and progress until the tooth is destroyed. Young children with ECC often experience pain, difficulty eating, and sleeping. Seek help if your child shows any white spots on his teeth.

Children should begin routine dental visits by age one so that any problems may be detected, treated or even avoided. Start oral care early. By making the right choices for yourself and your baby, you will increase the chances of enjoying many years of healthy happy smiles.