We’ve written many times about the role of bacteria in the development of cavities. Everyone “catches” these cavity-causing bacteria in the early part of their life. Well, genetic analysis shows that the primary source of these bacteria is actually from a baby’s primary caregiver: often mother or father. This intimate relationship means that the oral health status of the parents during their child’s early life will have a direct effect on a number of factors: these include the age at which a child first gets these bacteria, the amount of these bacteria in the mouth, and the likelihood of a child having cavities – even YEARS down the road! In a simplified sense, the later the child is exposed to these bacteria, the less “real estate” is available in the mouth (other benign bacteria will move in first) and the less these bacteria will be able to prosper… aka: lower risk of cavities!
Often, pregnant women are not thinking about their baby’s oral health while they are dealing with morning sickness, preparing a nursery and juggling other life responsibilities. More commonly pregnant women tend not to be as diligent in their oral hygiene department and continue that trend for the first (often exhausting) months of their infant’s life. But in actuality, there are some small things an expecting mother can do for her child’s teeth before he or she is even born!
- Brush and floss daily to keep maternal bacterial levels down and reduce the chance of transmission to the infant.
- 70-80% of pregnant women report vomiting/morning sickness. Avoid brushing teeth immediately after for freshening breath, instead use mouth rinse and then only brush 30 minutes later once all the acid is out of the mouth. This will help avoid wearing away of the outer layers of the enamel.
- Quit smoking! Studies show that the most successful time to quit smoking during a woman’s life is when she is pregnant. Infant second hand smoke is associated with primary tooth cavities, in addition to other infections.
- Try and curb food cravings by eating nutritious non-cavity causing snacks throughout the day. This will help you avoid cavities and also help provide the key vitamins needed by your developing baby.
Once the baby is born, follow some basic key rules to set them up for a lifetime of good habits. Wipe their gums after all feedings, keep your oral hygiene in check and visit your dentist to take care of any active cavities you might have. You should also avoid sharing saliva with your infants to delay the transmission of the cavity-causing bacteria: don’t share silverware, double dip or taste test their food, and avoid cleaning their pacifier with your saliva if it falls on the floor. Lastly and most importantly, bring them to a pediatric dentist by 1 year of age for their first dental visit!