What You Need to Know About Your Baby’s Oral Health
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As I prepared for the birth of my baby I thought about everything! (So I thought.) I thought about breastfeeding, and baby wearing, and room set up, and breast pumping and so much more! One thing I didn’t think about though, was baby’s oral health. I had heard about wiping baby’s mouth out after they nurse, but I didn’t think it was that important, and honestly I didn’t think a lot about my own oral health either.
And then I flew from South Africa where I’m stationed as a missionary alone with my baby at 4 months to see my parents. It was a smooth trip except for the abscessed tooth which flared up on the way! I had a connection in Germany and the side of my face had doubled in size! When I got home I saw the emergency dentist and in my two-week trip I ended up going to see the dentist about 8 times for 3 root canals and cavity treatment! That’s pretty embarrassing for me to admit, but after that, I had a very different outlook on my oral health and my baby’s oral health! I had always taken care of my teeth pretty well, but I realized how much care our teeth really need!
Why is Oral Health Important for Babies?
As I said, I did not realize the importance of oral health for babies. Since then, I have done some research and have learnt a lot from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). One thing I learnt, which to state simply, is that there are bacteria in the mouth that reacts with sugars to create an acid which can demineralize teeth. This can create various problems. I started thinking about my own sugar intake and the bad habits I knew I had (like eating something sugary before bed without brushing my teeth). I know that changing my diet can change my dental path, but cutting sugar out of your life is easier said than done. This new information about oral health though reaffirmed my decision to seriously limit or possibly completely exclude sugar from my baby’s future diet.
Did you know that according to the AAPD children ages 1-6 are recommended to have no more than 4-6 ounces of fruit juice a day, and even then it should be consumed at a meal with an open cup?
It turns out that an infant’s oral health needs begin even before their first tooth erupts. Bacteria can be found on the baby’s tongue and other surfaces even before their first tooth.
The mother’s oral health also play’s a huge role, which I did not realize. So just as you are currently considering your baby’s oral health needs you should also look at your own. Personally, I have chosen to go for a mix of “crunchy and conventional” when considering my oral health. I brush my teeth twice a day, once with a typical toothpaste and another time with a homemade toothpaste made from coconut oil, baking soda, xylitol and peppermint essential oil. I also occasionally practice oil pulling using coconut oil and I floss regularly, my dentist actually recommended twice a day. I’m also hoping to start using activated charcoal on my teeth very soon.
So how can you take care of your baby’s oral health?
First of all, look at your own oral health and make any necessary changes. The AAPD recommends that at 6 months the baby is assessed for any dental risks by their main health care provider. Then again at 12 months a regular dentist should be established by the family with another assessment, which may also include your dental history. At the assessment the dentist may talk about non-nutritive sucking habits the baby has, this would be prolonged pacifier sucking and even sippy cup and bottle sucking which creates risks. Be sure at this appointment that your dentist gives you specific guidelines for cleaning your baby’s teeth.
Before these appointments though you can take some things into consideration for your baby’s oral health. First of all, know that “breast is best” even when coming to oral health for the first year of your baby’s life! This is just a fact, but formula feeding moms, you are doing great too, just some encouragement for those who are taking on breastfeeding.
Even before your baby’s teeth come in you can wipe their mouth out with a cloth of some sort, after eating is probably the best time. If you desire you can also use a baby friendly xylitol paste. This is what my nurse recommends, and my baby never had a problem with it. When their first tooth comes in is when you should really make sure to be caring for their oral health on a daily basis. At this time you might want to find a good size appropriate toothbrush but you could continue to use the cloth. The AAPD recommends using a baby toothpaste with fluoride, but personally I have some hesitations with that so I have been continuing to use the xylitol paste. I brush around the entire surface of each tooth as well as around the mouth. I aim to so this two times a day after baby has eaten. Right before bed time could be a good time so there isn’t a lot of gunk sitting in your baby’s mouth at night time.
What if I forget to brush their teeth?
Honestly, running around with a baby is busy business, and it seems like their oral health isn’t as pressing of a need as say something like diaper changes or sleeping through the night. I know how important my baby’s oral health is yet I still struggle to remember to brush her teeth! Here are some tips to make it a routine:
- Keep the supplies you are using to brush baby’s teeth at the same spot you change their diaper so you can brush their teeth during diaper changes
- Store cloths for wiping baby’s mouth pre-teeth near your favourite spot to sit to feed baby so you can conveniently give it a wipe after the feeding
- Brush baby’s teeth right after they have had solids, perhaps keep the brush in the same place you feed your baby
- Have a morning routine where when baby wakes up you also wash their face and brush their teeth. The face washing will also help your baby to wake up for the day and help with your daily routine
The best tip I can give when starting any routine with your baby is to create the routine alongside an existing routine. If you are already doing something at the same time every day, or at least regularly every day, then it’s easy to latch the new routine onto that.
So those are some of the basics for baby’s oral health. Remember to always reach out to a medical professional if you have serious concerns about your baby’s oral health.
What does your oral health routine look like for you personally and for baby? Tell me in the comments below!
The Moving Mama
Lizzy Mash is an experienced early childhood educator now living in Africa as a missionary working with children and families.
She teaches Christian moms how to take a more respectful and Christ-like approach to motherhood by using Gentle Parenting strategies.
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