Editor, momstown Guelph
Research shows that primary or "baby" teeth form below the gum line around the sixth week of pregnancy, and they're covered by hard enamel during the third to fourth month. Permanent or "adult" teeth also begin developing at this time.
Take, for example, the story of a mother of two (see reference below). Upon her son's initial visit to the dentist, she was told that her son would need a crown on his baby tooth. She was devastated, and, even moreso, when her dentist informed her that her young daughter had four cavities. The dentist asked her, “What was your pregnancy like? Any problems getting vitamins and minerals?”
Confused, the mom thought back to her pregnancy. It had been a bad pregnancy. In fact, she was unable to keep anything down for months, due to hyperemesis gravidarum. The dentist gently explained that her daughter had weak enamel, and that her pregnancy and illness may have been the cause. Her daughter would need two fillings and two crowns on her main chewing teeth, or she would lose them. The mom felt tremendous guilt and sadness.
It would have been helpful for her to have known that during pregnancy, it is possible to get your child's teeth off to a healthy start by following your doctor's advice and eating a well-balanced diet, including calcium-rich foods such as yogurt and dark leafy greens. And, that due to typical pregnancy morning sickness, expectant moms may be losing vitamins that their unborn baby needs for healthy tooth development.
But promoting healthy tooth development doesn't stop after birth.
Once baby is born, your job is to continue to promote the healthy development of gums and those first baby teeth, in order to ensure good oral health into adulthood.
Since April is Dental Health Month, let's promote good and healthy tooth development in our children.
Here are a few tips to help you and your child understand the health benefits and recognize the importance of taking care of our teeth at a young age:
Caring for Baby's Gums
You can start caring for baby's gums right away. But, instead of a toothbrush and toothpaste, use a soft, moistened washcloth or piece of gauze to gently wipe down baby's gums after feedings and before bedtime. The reason for caring for baby's gums, is that the bacteria can leave behind a sticky plaque that damages infant teeth as they come in.
Caring for Baby's First Teeth
Your child can go to his/her first dentist appointment at the age of one. This is to ensure proper dental health and hygiene for yourself and your baby.
During this time, your baby will be teething. This is a fussy and uncomfortable time for your baby. They may cry a lot, and may even develop fevers. You can use teething rings, or you can rub your baby's gums with a clean finger to help with discomfort. Pain relief medication should only be used on the advice of a physician.
As soon as baby's first tooth starts to erupt, you can use a small, soft toothbrush, with a large handle, to rub around the front and back of your baby's teeth in a gentle fashion. You can use a tiny speck of toothpaste when your child turns three.
You should assist your child with teeth brushing, until the time when they are able to do it properly and independently. This is usually at the age of six.
In order to protect your baby's teeth, and prevent cavities, you should only put formula, breast milk, or water in your baby's bottle.
Also, avoid putting anything sweet (like sugar or honey) on your baby's pacifier. This can cause tooth decay.
Lastly, try to avoid giving your child sugary drinks, such as fruit juices or soda. Also, if you have to send your baby to bed or naps with a bottle or sippy cup, fill it with water only.
Remember: Promoting good dental health at a very early age, will help to ensure good dental health in adulthood!
Lana Kelly( B.A, SSW, ECE, Montessori). For 20 years, Lana has been dedicated to helping children and families. In 2010, she published a book (The Sheepish Lamb) , aimed at building resilience to childhood anxiety. She is a mom to four daughters, and values her faith and family solidarity.
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