How do you take care of yourself when you’re pregnant? Me, I cared for myself and my baby through regular prenatal care, daily prenatal vitamins, and good nutrition. I did my best to avoid medications, toxins, and any chemicals that might impact my growing baby. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in both of my pregnancies, but that forced me to focus even more on eating healthy food, getting regular exercise, and managing my blood sugar levels.
But what about your teeth? Did you know that pregnant women’s teeth are especially vulnerable to dental disease? Morning sickness and increased acidity can wear away tooth enamel, and hormonal changes can affect gum health. As your body changes, so does your mouth, and the bacteria in your mouth can transfer throughout your body impacting your pregnancy.
Just like we take care of our bodies in pregnancy, it’s important to take care of our teeth too. Maintain a daily dental care routine, eat well, and visit your dentist for an exam to monitor your dental health and address any issues early. Regular dental visits support both your health and your baby’s. The good news is that dental care, including local anaesthetic and even X-rays, is safe during pregnancy.
Dental care doesn’t stop when baby arrives, of course. Once that little bundle of joy comes along, we need to care for their teeth too. And it starts earlier than you might think. Early childhood tooth decay is preventable, yet it’s the most common chronic disease among children under five in BC. You might think that baby teeth aren’t that important because they’ll be replaced, but they can last until 13 or 14, and poor teeth can impact your child’s nutrition, speech development, and self-confidence. Baby teeth are also important for the placement and spacing of permanent teeth. Plus, tooth decay is simply painful! That’s why it’s so important to teach and role model good dental hygiene just like you teach your child other skills necessary to leading a healthy lifestyle.
Last month all four of us went for our regular 6 month check-up with our family dentist. I’ve been seeing Dr. D’Alfonso since my early 20s and I have a wonderful relationship with her. Even after we moved out of the city, I still drag the whole family into town for our check-ups because I don’t want to give her up. Tee and Kay both had their first dental exams with her when they turned one, and I love how gentle and patient she is with the girls. Unfortunately, this visit we got the dreaded news that Tee has “sticky pits”. It’s a weird phrase, but sticky pits in her molars are a sign of tooth decay. Oh no!
The next step was to refer Tee to a pediatric dentist. Once we got there, Tee was not particularly cooperative. It took me 20 minutes to convince her to allow them to X-ray her teeth. Luckily, once the dentist could see what was happening in there, she was able to reassure us that Tee’s cavity wasn’t too bad and it didn’t require immediate treatment. She told us to come back for another exam in three months, and in the meantime, to start flossing her teeth daily, continue brushing twice a day, minimize sugary foods/drinks, and use a calcium paste to help maintain a more alkaline pH in her mouth. If we take really good care of her teeth, there’s a chance we can reverse the decay and remineralize her teeth.
I’m so glad my dentist caught the problem early on. Hopefully Tee won’t need a needle and drilling to save her tooth. We’ve started flossing her teeth for her, and I bought a light-up Star Wars toothbrush that makes brushing her teeth fun. It’s important that Tee gets to practice brushing her own teeth, but we do another pass when she’s finished to make sure that everything is clean in there. Fingers crossed that I’ll have some good news to report when we go back to the dentist!
Tips for Healthy Baby Teeth
Keep these tips in mind when it comes to dental hygiene and healthy teeth for your little one:
- Even before any teeth come in, make it a habit to clean your baby’s mouth and gums with a soft wet cloth.
- Start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. Make sure you lift the lip to brush along the gum line.
- Don’t allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle or a sippy cup filled with anything other than water.
- Don’t let your child snack on sugary foods or drinks throughout the day or overnight.
- Develop a brushing routine and make it fun. (Like with a Star Wars light saber toothbrush!)
- Take your baby for her first dental visit by age one or within six months of when you see the first tooth.
- Ensure your child receives regular dental exams. They’re crucial to monitor the development of your child’s teeth, catch any problems early, and prevent dental disease.
April is Dental Health Month, and the BC Dental Association wants to help you prevent dental disease. Visit the BC DENTAL ASSOCIATION website for more information and to get more tips for maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
What do you do to help teach and reinforce good dental hygiene for your kids?