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Oral Health Information and Practice: It's never too early!


Dental Professionals should aim to teach soon-to-be parents about oral hygiene practices for their new baby even before baby arrives.

It is common practice to make time to discuss the oral health status of a mother during pregnancy. As we are all familiar with the risks associated with poor oral health and pregnancy. However, we also need to make time to discuss the oral hygiene practices for the baby when he or she arrives. 

Understanding even though infants do not have teeth they still need to keep their mouth clean, is a critical piece of communication. Educating on the earlier the oral hygiene habits are formed it can actually hep decrease the risk for future dental cavities is a motivating factor.

This is hard for parents to wrap their head around because commonly they feel there is no risk if their baby does not have teeth. We need to explain to parents the biofilm (microscopic) that commonly appears on teeth can also accumulate on the tongue and gums where the soon-to-be teeth will be popping out.

It's all about creating an environment that is ready for those little pearly whites. Parents need to understand as that first tooth erupts it's at risk for dental caries development. When the practice of cleaning the mouth starts right from birth it allows for a smooth transition when the teeth appear and the time is needed in the oral cavity to clean the teeth.

Using a soft damp clot or specialized finger brush to wipe the baby's mouth are perfect tools to get around the gums, roof of the mouth, and cheeks. Having two parents work together when possible can be very helpful when using the knee-to-knee technique. This is something we can demonstrate for the parents right inside our operatories. This involves having two adults sit facing each other with knees touching and having baby lay across the legs. It creates a great visual field for one of the adults and aids in child comfort. 

For more image on knee-to-knee see https://www.cda-adc.ca/jcda/vol-75/issue-8/577.html

The goal would be to have parents understand the importance of wiping the mouth after each feeding or at least two times daily. When parents start to notice teeth appear its imperative the cleaning habits are formed.  It's only natural the more involved the parents are at home with oral care the higher chance for compliance during an oral health assessment at the dental office.   

Having a conversation about when to expect teeth to erupt can lead to less surprises for the parents. Also letting them know as soon as the first tooth erupts this is when they can start to use a small soft bristled brush. For young children under 3 years of age the introduction of a specific toothpaste (ie. fluoride and/or 25% xylitol) will depend on the current risk factors, and professional judgement. 

Lastly, we as dental professionals need to continue to promote and educate the public on taking their baby's to a dental provider for an assessment by their first birthday.  As you can see there are many key points we need to review with parents, to ensure the child's oral heath starts off in the right direction. 

This is where we as dental professionals can make one of the greatest impacts within our industry! 


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