How early should I begin dental care for my child?
Would it surprise you to learn that dental care actually starts before pregnancy?
As parents, we want what is best for our children and we have a responsibility towards their teeth even before conception takes place.
Early Preventive Care
Most woman are already aware the their actions affect not only them, but their unborn child also. Giving important consideration to your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being is essential to the healthy development of your child. To give your child the best start in life, care actually begins pre-conception and continues throughout pregnancy, childbirth, post-natally and then into parenthood.
Many parents are surprised to learn that their baby’s teeth begin their development in the womb during the first trimester at about 6-8 weeks. These teeth are very sensitive to any physiologic changes and developmental disturbances that may occur during this very critical period of time in the pregnancy. And because babies usually remain “toothless” for the first 4-5 months, the health of their teeth may not even be a consideration yet.
Every patient is different, with different needs, but the time during pregnancy is a unique time that requires specialized attention and care. Your well-being is a critical factor in determining just how healthy and strong your child’s teeth will be.
We believe that women who have already established a good oral health care routine before and during pregnancy are more likely to maintain this routine for themselves and their baby after birth. Let’s take a look at some of things that can affect the health your child’s developing teeth:
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of maintaining a healthy, balanced diet throughout your pregnancy. The phrase, “You are what you eat” applies to both you and your baby during your pregnancy. Even the slightest nutritional deficiency can cause tooth deformation which can, in turn, place your child at a greater risk for cavities later in life.
Calcium and phosphorous are minerals that are part of the hard tissues of the teeth giving them their hardness and strength. By the time your baby is born almost all of the enamel on their teeth has already been formed!
What foods should I eat?
Follow the advice of your physician when it comes to the type of diet that you should be following during your pregnancy. Depending on the trimester, you will need an extra 300-500 calories per day for your health and the health of your baby. These calories should come from a variety of healthy foods like calcium, protein, and vitamins A, B12, C and D. Consult the Health Canada webpage for links to more information concerning prenatal nutrition.
Of course, the use of tobacco products, alcohol and street drugs interferes with your well-being and your child’s welfare. Seriously rethinking these habits before you become pregnant will bring you new life also!
What medications should I avoid during pregnancy?
Many over-the-counter drugs may have warning labels that alert you to the use of the product before, during and even after pregnancy. We encourage you to consult with your doctor and dentist to discuss any of the risk vs. benefits of the medications.
Antibiotics – are prescribed with caution to prevent or treat infections. Only those that are known to be safe such as penicillin, amoxicillin, and clindamycin should be used during your pregnancy. There is also an antibiotic called tetracycline that is routinely avoided since it can cause permanent staining to your baby’s developing teeth.
Chlorohexadine – is a germicidal mouth rinse that is used to treatment gingivitis or gum disease. It is considered safe to use throughout pregnancy.
Lidocaine – is an anesthetic used to numb your mouth tissue and can be safely administered during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Only the lowest amount necessary will be used to make you comfortable enough during treatment. Although some dentists may consider the use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) safe, we do not use it for expecting mothers.
Your dentist may need to consult with your OB/Gyn before prescribing any medications or proceeding with any dental treatment.
Can I whiten my teeth during pregnancy?
There is not a enough reliable data available yet concerning the use of products to whiten your teeth during pregnancy. Until we know more about whether it poses a significant risk to your baby, we advise against teeth whitening during pregnancy and the breastfeeding period. Although there are natural ways to keep your teeth clean and white without having to use whitening products at home or at the dental office, you should read our article, “How to Whiten your Teeth Naturally” to learn more about these home treatments.
Are x-rays safe during pregnancy?
Today’s advances in technology have made the new dental digital x-rays much safer. In fact, the radiation exposure is so low that you can take 1 digital x-rays for every 10 of the old, paper-type dental film. Dentists will usually hold off taking any x-rays until after your pregnancy, however, in the event of a dental emergency or infection, an x-ray may be necessary.
Safety precautions will be taken, and, if possible, the dentist may wait until your second or early part of your third trimester to take an x-ray or begin treatment. The use of a lead dental apron with thyroid collar is a standard practice in dentistry, so make sure one is used and is fastened snugly.
Word of Caution…
According to several studies that have been published in the Journal of Periodontology, there is evidence that women with gum disease are more likely to have premature or low birth weight infants. Gums that are free of disease are important in having a healthy mouth and a healthy body.
By practicing a few healthy steps you can help reduce the likelihood of dental problems during your pregnancy:
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day
- Flossing at least once daily
- Rinsing and gargling with an antiseptic mouth rinse recommended by your dentist.
- Reducing the frequency of snacking in between meals.
- Maintain a well-balanced, health diet avoiding sugary snacks as much as possible.
- Maintain regular dental hygiene care.
Can I get dental treatment done during my pregnancy?
If possible, arrange to visit to your dentist for an examination before you become pregnant. In doing so, any treatment or cleanings that are advised can be done before conception. The second trimester is the safest time for a routine check-up/cleaning and any recommended, non-invasive treatment.
When routine and preventive dental care is avoided, dental emergencies are more likely to occur. Through good, preventive care most dental problems associated with pregnancy can be minimised or avoided.
At Your Smile Dental Care we are here to help our patients develop a lifetime of healthy behaviours and attitudes. Caring for your child’s teeth begins with your own healthy attitude. Your good habits can help minimize risks for your newborn and will become the good habits that you pass down to your children.
Yours in Better Dental Health,
The Your Smile Dental Team