If you’re pregnant, or if you plan on becoming pregnant, we recommend a dental check-up to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy.
Increased hormones during pregnancy can cause “pregnancy gingivitis,” a gum disease that makes the gums more sensitive and prone to bleeding. If left untreated, it can lead to more serious gum disease. Brushing, flossing, and getting your teeth cleaned on a regular basis can help reduce complications and keep you and your baby healthy. If possible, it’s best to take care of your dental needs before becoming pregnant.
Most pregnant women deal with some kind of morning sickness during their first trimester. If you can count yourself among them, and if that sickness involves vomiting, make sure to rinse your mouth out afterward with water and a teaspoon of baking soda to neutralize the acid. Wait an hour to brush, and when you do, use a soft toothbrush — your enamel will be softer from the stomach acid. If you use Tums or chewable antacids, the sugar content can cause cavities, so rinse your mouth after eating those as well. Adding a fluoride rinse to your brushing routine will help protect your tooth enamel from acid.
We strongly recommend discontinuing the use of any tooth bleaching products. And obviously, if you use alcohol or tobacco products, quit them immediately.
While the morning sickness may be behind you, your pregnancy is far from over. During the second trimester, you should continue to maintain a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Make sure you’re getting a lot of folic acid, vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin B12 — they’ll help build a healthy baby with healthy teeth. If you have cravings for sugary foods, try to consume them with normal meals and brush afterward to avoid cavities. If you have an appointment scheduled with us during this time, let us know so we take all the necessary precautions for you and your baby. The second trimester is the best time to receive dental care if needed. If you have a toothache or gum problems, don’t delay making an appointment with your dentist.
We know dental chairs aren’t the most comfortable surfaces in the world. As such, we recommend avoiding dental treatments during the last six weeks of your pregnancy. Schedule an appointment with us shortly after your baby is born.
Studies show that babies can be infected with bacteria from mothers’ saliva before they even get teeth, so make sure to maintain excellent at-home brushing and flossing. Keeping your mouth clean can lower the amount of cavity-causing bacteria that can be transferred to your baby. You can also chew xylitol gum three times a day.
0-2 Years Old
Although babies have the beginnings of their first teeth before they’re born, the teeth don’t erupt until around 6–8 months. Still, it is still important to take care of your child’s gums from the get go. Use a soft gauze pad or cloth to gently wipe baby’s gums after feeding. When you first see a tooth (usually on the bottom gum), you can start brushing the tooth (and subsequent teeth) with a soft infant toothbrush twice a day. Along with the American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, we recommend using a rice grain-size smear of fluoride-containing toothpaste to strengthen and clean the teeth. This very small amount, even if swallowed, is safe for your baby.
Once your child is 2 years old, you can graduate to a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste on the toothbrush. You should also never put your baby to sleep with a bottle or allow them to use a bottle or sippy cup throughout the day. The natural sugar from milk, juice, or even breast milk will soak the child’s teeth in bacteria, causing decay. We recommend bringing your child in after the first tooth erupts, or no later than their first birthday.
3-5 Years old
By age 3, your child should have nearly all 20 baby teeth. But the battle’s only just begun: Studies show that more than 40% of children will have cavities before kindergarten.
To prevent cavities in your children, make sure they stop using the bottles/sippy cups by age 1. You should also use fluoride toothpaste, and don’t eat too many between-meal snacks (especially sticky foods like fruit snacks or candy). The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and general pediatricians alike recommend no more than 4–6oz of juice per day. Sucking habits (pacifier, thumb, etc.) should be stopped by age 3 if possible to prevent problems with bite and facial development. Finally, children may want to brush their own teeth at this stage. It’s a good idea to let them try to brush, and then you brush afterward to ensure all the surfaces are clean. Kids will typically need supervision with brushing until they’re 10 years old.
6-11 Years Old
This is the tooth fairy stage of teeth development, so get your pocketbooks ready.
Around age 6, your child will begin to lose baby teeth in the front and gain permanent teeth in the front and back. As soon as they start to touch, you should begin flossing your child’s teeth (flossers work well for this). Children typically don’t brush along the gumline or the back teeth, so pay special attention to these problem areas. However, almost 90% of cavities in permanent molars occur in the grooves. Dental sealants are a great way to protect the permanent molars and other teeth at risk of getting decay. They’re a protective coating that goes on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth that acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid.
During these ages, children become more active with sports, and dental injuries are very common. Ask our team about mouthguards to protect your child’s teeth during sports, especially baseball, basketball, and football.
12-18 Years Old
By ages 12 or 13, your child will have lost most (if not all) of their baby teeth. But with these great new chompers comes an even greater responsibility: Of all the age groups, cavities are most common in teens. This is largely due to increased freedom leading to poor diet choices and less brushing, so make sure to tell your child about the importance of good dental health habits early and often.
Around this time, children also may notice if they have crooked teeth or if their teeth are discolored — you can talk with us about options for both braces and whitening. We can also take a panoramic X-Ray of your child’s jaws to check the development of third molars, and when indicated, we’ll refer your child to an oral surgeon for removal. Be sure to let our office know if your child is experiencing pain from their wisdom teeth.
Unfortunately, substance abuse may begin during this stage (90% of adult smokers began before age 19), so monitor your child for signs of alcohol or tobacco use.
Finally, eating disorders are also common, and in addition to many other serious issues, can damage the teeth. Please talk with our office regarding assistance with any of these common issues surrounding adolescence.