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This Mother's Day, remember that a baby's dental health matters
Updated: 5/14/2013 11:14:59 AM
 

This Mother

Now that Mother's Day has passed and Father's Day is right around the corner, now may be a good time to discuss dental health during pregnancy, and the role that mothers and fathers play in their babies' dental care. Recently, the Ontario Dental Association released a statement explaining that good oral health starts in the womb, which is why it's important for women to not only visit their doctors regularly during pregnancy, but their dentists as well. 

According to the organization, it's extremely important for women to take care of their own teeth during pregnancy, or they may find themselves experiencing serious dental health issues. This is because just as women's hormone levels change while they are pregnant, so does their risk of gum disease and gingivitis. 

"Inflamed gums result from changes in mouth bacteria that feed on the extra hormones secreted during pregnancy, and in the overall increase in fluid levels in the body as the pregnancy progresses," said Arthur Worth, D.D.S., the ODA's president. "Regular professional dental cleanings and the patient's personal home care are key to reducing the inflammation that can occur during pregnancy and the chances of developing severe gingivitis - tell your dentist if you are pregnant and if you have observed any changes in your oral health."

Women don't just have to worry about their own teeth during pregnancy, but that of their developing babies as well. The dentist explained that babies' teeth start developing in the first three months of pregnancy, which is another reason why women should go to the dentist.

The Dental Health and Wellness Center of Boston states that research has shown that a mother's dental health can affect her baby's developing dental health, since a mother may pass pathogenic bacteria on to her baby. Furthermore, the center added that while some women may be concerned that dental care is not safe during pregnancy, they shouldn't be. As long as they inform their dentist that they are expecting, he or she will be able to make sure that their appointment is safe for them. 

Prevent dental problems early on
The ODA also offered some tips for how parents can start protecting their babies' teeth from very early on. For example, parents should wipe babies' gums and teeth that are too small to brush with a clean, wet washcloth after meals. This will help get rid of leftover food particles that bacteria in the mouth can potentially feed on. There are also infant toothbrushes available, so parents should talk to their dentists about how to properly use these dental care tools. 

Also, it is common for many parents to test the temperature of their babies' bottles by tasting the formula themselves. If parents do this, they should not put their mouth on the part of the bottle that the baby sucks on, since parents can spread their own oral bacteria to their children. This is the same reason why parents should never share utensils with their children. 

Furthermore, there is a common problem called baby bottle tooth decay, which refers to the dental health issues that can arise if a child is allowed to have a bottle of juice or milk in his or her crib all night. Allowing children to expose their teeth to the sugars in these beverages all evening may cause cavities. 

"The importance of a child's first teeth should never be underestimated - they help the child to eat and speak and also help the adult teeth to come in straight," said Dr. Worth. "An early dental visit allows the dentist to diagnose and correct any abnormalities that could affect the child's oral health and overall growth and development."

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