Staying on top of your oral hygiene during and after your pregnancy is critical. Good oral health reduces the risk of infection and keeps your smile healthy and bright. The same goes for your newborn child, which is why it’s never too early to start taking care of your little one’s mouth and gums, even if they don’t have any teeth yet.
According to a 2013 study in the Dental Research Journal, over 58 percent of new parents don’t know how to clean their infant’s teeth properly. If you happen to fall on the wrong side of this statistic, then you need to brush up on the importance of oral hygiene.
Parenthood is an exciting and challenging time in one’s life; to make it easier for you, we’ve listed some of the best dental care and oral hygiene tips for new mothers and their babies below.
The Importance of Dental Care for Mothers and Babies
It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to suffer from poor oral hygiene. After all, there are so many commitments that an expectant mother must balance during their pregnancy. However, proper dental hygiene is never optional—it’s one of the most important aspects of a mother and her baby’s overall health.
Research shows that there’s a strong link between periodontal disease and birth defects, such as preterm delivery or low birthweight. Babies born preterm or with low body weight are at risk of various life-threatening diseases. Gingivitis caused by poor brushing and flossing habits is one of the leading causes of periodontal disease in new mothers and expectant women.
How To Keep Your Teeth and Gums Healthy As A New Mother
Once you’ve delivered your baby, it’s crucial that you continue taking good care of your oral health. Below, we’ve listed some of the most effective tips, tricks, and daily rituals to keep your dental hygiene in top shape post-pregnancy.
Don’t Skip The Flouride
Studies show that only 11.5 percent of parents are aware of the proven dental benefits of fluoride. Whether you’re brushing your teeth, or your newborn’s gums or teeth, it’s important that you use at least a pea-sized amount of toothpaste containing fluoride.
Experts maintain that fluoride is a safe additive to toothpaste for both adults and children. Toothpaste containing fluoride is clinically proven to reduce harmful plaque and bacteria, lower the risk of oral infections, and promote gum health.
Mothers and newborns alike should brush their teeth (or gums) no fewer than twice daily. Ideally, three brushing sessions per day will ensure your oral hygiene is in tip-top shape. Similarly, new mothers should floss between their teeth at least once per day to keep their gums in good health and reduce the risk of gingivitis.
Don’t Hesitate To Make Your First Appointment
It’s never too early to schedule your child’s first dentist appointment. Within two or three months of delivering your baby, call your local dental clinic or dental hygienist to inquire about their availability for a newborn patient. Even if your child hasn’t yet grown teeth, it’s important that a dental professional inspect their gums to make sure there are no early signs of infection.
Don’t Swap Spoons
Since they haven’t yet developed immunity to common diseases and pathogens, newborn babies are very sensitive to harmful bacteria.
Therefore, it’s important that you never expose your baby to bacteria from dirty utensils or spoons that have entered your own mouth. Mouth-to-mouth contamination is one of the most common methods for the transmission of bacterial infections.
Keep Nighttime Snacking Minimal
It’s common for new mothers to be kept up throughout the night with their crying baby. This, alongside dramatic changes in hormone regulation, leads to cravings for snacks and sweets during the late-night hours. Although the urge to eat may be strong, experts recommend keeping nighttime snacking to a minimum or at least eating only light, healthy snacks.
Your mouth secretes less saliva late at night, which creates a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. By introducing sugary food to the mix, you expose yourself (and your newborn child) to bacterial cultures that may pose a risk to your health. Instead, opt for any of the following enamel-friendly foods:
- Dairy foods
- Leafy greens
- Green tea
- Carrot sticks
The next time you’re craving a snack, consider reaching for a slice of cheese. This calcium-rich food is a natural promoter of tooth remineralization, which catalyzes enamel repair following non-cavitated tooth lesions. Plus, cheese consumption stimulates the secretion of saliva in the mouth, which helps flush out bad bacteria and replace them with germ-fighting bacteria.
Helpful Tips for Brushing Your Newborn’s Teeth
Even if your infant doesn’t have any teeth, you must take the time to brush and wash their mouth and gums. With time, the baby will acclimatize to the feeling of having a foreign object in their mouth and will learn to appreciate the feeling of a clean mouth. When their teeth finally sprout, they will be comfortable with having their teeth scrubbed.
Below, we’ve provided some of our top suggestions for keeping your baby’s oral hygiene in great shape during the first few months postpartum.
Use a Musical Timer
Dentists recommend brushing your teeth for no fewer than two minutes. However, young children do not have as many teeth and, therefore, do not require the same extensive brushing regimen. For infants, 90 seconds is often sufficient.
To hold yourself to this time requirement, consider using a novelty toothbrush that plays music from a speaker, or use a separate musical timer.
Music timers can help ease your child’s nerves and make brushing their teeth fun and enjoyable. The less your child protests about brushing their teeth, the more likely they are to brush frequently and thoroughly—leaving them with cleaner, healthier dental health.
Wash After Vomiting
Infants and young children frequently vomit due to their lack of immunity to common bacteria and germs. Whenever they vomit, be sure to wash their inner cheeks, gums, and teeth with a solution of water and baking soda. This way, their toothbrush will not contact the stomach acid contained in the vomit.
Rinsing out your infant’s mouth with a baking soda-based solution will ensure that their teeth are free of hydrochloric acid, which erodes tooth enamel.
There’s no use in a toothbrush in the first week or two after your child’s birth. To clean their mouth in the early days postpartum, use a small gauze pad or soft washcloth after they feed. Once their first teeth start to emerge, then switch to a child-sized toothbrush with a small amount of fluoride-infused toothpaste.
Keep Their Teeth Sugar-Free
A baby’s bottle should only contain water, cow’s milk, breast milk, or formula. Feeding your child sugary drinks such as orange juice or apple juice from concentrate can contribute to tooth enamel decay, gingivitis, and can even cause behavioral problems.
Don’t Kiss With Cavities
Mothers with cavities should be careful not to swap the cavity-causing bacteria in their mouth to their baby. If you have a cavity, refrain from kissing your baby on the mouth. Wait until the cavity has been removed and filled in before kissing them on the lips.
Brush With Your Little One
Your child looks up to you, both literally and figuratively. To set a good example for your child, brush your teeth as often as you can in front of them. When they’re of age to brush their teeth, you can take a couple of minutes out every day to brush your teeth together. Brushing together can turn an otherwise bland routine experience into special “mommy time” for your child.
Set A Good Example
Proper oral hygiene is a lifelong endeavor. Start your newborn off right by teaching them the value of a hygienic mouth and a healthy smile. Always set time out twice a day to brush your baby’s mouth and teeth, and don’t forget to take good care of your teeth too during the busyness of early motherhood.