Greetings and welcome to our on-going blog series, Dentistry Through the Ages. In these blog posts, we will cover age-group specific dental needs and concerns. Your life is constantly changing, and we want to equip you with the best information possible to keep your teeth healthy!
Today, we want to address the dental concerns of families with newborns and infants. We know this can be an exciting and stressful time, with childcare advice coming from many (sometimes conflicting) sources. Hence, we want to ease your mind with our professional and scientifically proven advice on proper newborn dental care.
Infant dental concerns actually begin during the prenatal months. Studies have shown that women with periodontal disease are at a higher risk for low birth weight and early term infants. It is important to minimize this concern by keeping up with your regular dental cleanings before and during pregnancy. Additionally, hormonal changes, increased snacking and morning sickness all put pregnant women at a significantly higher risk for tooth decay. We recommend that all of our pregnant patients pay special attention to their oral health and consider supplementing their current home care with further preventative products, such as xylitol rinses or chews.
You can start your newborn on the path to great oral hygiene even before their teeth start to erupt. An important fact to remember is that oral bacteria is often transferred from caregivers to their children. Avoid sharing saliva with your infant, as your bacteria can start to colonize their mouth and cause tooth decay at a very young age. In fact, studies show that the bacterial profile of mothers and children match, even before the baby teeth come in! Once teeth begin to show through the gums, you can clean them using a washcloth or xylitol wipes. After two or more teeth “touch,” you should start to floss between them.
Once the teeth begin to develop, it is important to never put your infant to sleep with a milk bottle. The milk will sit on the teeth all night and eventually cause rampant decay. In fact, the decay pattern of night time milk bottles is so characteristic, it has earned itself the title of “bottle mouth.”
Beyond toothcare, infancy is a period of rapid craniofacial development. While much of this will occur naturally, proper development can be encouraged. Breastfeeding has been shown to be beneficial to proper facial growth. Global studies show that breastfeeding during the first four months of infancy are particularly critical to lower jaw development.
Your babies teeth need to stay healthy for as long as 13 years. Thus, it is very important that you protect them right from the beginning. On top of proper home care, we recommend you bring your child in for their first check up at 12 months. This can allow us to catch decay and developmental problems before they become a much larger issue. At Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry, we are prepared to see all of your family members, no matter what the age!