You may be familiar with the phrase “I’m eating for two” uttered by someone who’s pregnant. This refers to how healthy habits such as eating the right foods during pregnancy directly impact the health of a growing baby. You want your child to be healthy from head to toe, both inside and out of the uterus. This includes your baby’s dental health. While a child’s first teeth will emerge during the first few months after birth, a good foundation of dental wellness starts way before then. Here are tips for creating and nurturing your baby’s growing smile.
Your level of prenatal care and health will impact the foundation of your youngster’s smile. Although a baby’s first tooth usually appears within four to seven months of birth, you may not realize that their teeth have existed long before then. Most babies' basic tooth substance begins to form as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. At week 8, your child’s gums begin to take shape as two arcs of tissue along the upper and lower jaws. During this time, in each band 10 tooth buds start developing that will become the baby teeth. Beneath these buds are the origins of what eventually become permanent adult teeth. During the third and fourth months, enamel and dentin, hard substances that protect teeth, begin to form.
It’s essential that you eat healthily during pregnancy, as your nutrient intake affects everything about your baby, including their growing smile. Consider these tooth-building nutrients for your diet:
Calcium: You probably heard as a child that calcium leads to strong bones and teeth. It's true — this mineral is one of the building blocks of teeth. Good sources of calcium include dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Non-dairy sources include dark, leafy vegetables and foods with calcium added such as orange juice, plant-based milk, and grains
Phosphorus: This mineral is responsible for the hardness of teeth. Make sure you’re getting enough phosphorus by eating poultry, seafood, dairy, nuts, seeds, and whole grains
Vitamin D: This vitamin helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus. Oily fish such as salmon and tuna contain Vitamin D and stand as the best sources. Some dairy products also have Vitamin D. Although we get Vitamin D from sunlight, overexposure to the sun is not recommended. Supplements are also available
You also should keep in mind your own oral health. During pregnancy, your gums may also become more sensitive to plaque and susceptible to bleeding when you brush. This condition is called gingivitis. Your overall prenatal care plan may require more visits to your dentist.
Your doctor should recommend a prenatal eating plan that’s tailored to your needs, and you should stick to it. For most people, these habits promote dental health for you and your child:
Eat healthily: A good diet generally includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains. Make sure your doctor is aware of any food sensitivities or intolerances you have
Reduce sugar: Sugary drinks, desserts, and candy are not only harmful to teeth, but most lack the nutrients that promote fetal growth and development
Distribute intake: Several smaller healthy meals and snacks are better for you than three or fewer large meals
Drink water: You and your baby’s bodies need water, so drink plenty. Fluoridated water is especially beneficial for strong teeth
Increase your folic acid: Folic acid and folate-fortified foods help reduce the risk of birth defects in your child. Boost your intake by taking supplements and eating folate-rich foods such as asparagus, broccoli, legumes, citrus, strawberries, and enriched grains
Nurturing your baby’s growing smile starts from day one. Healthy teeth aren’t just important to your child’s smile. They also affect your child’s ability to chew and eat food, their ability to speak clearly, and the shape of their face. Though your baby may not be eating sweets, milk and other baby foods contain sugars and carbs that feed cavity-causing bacteria. Consider these tips for dental care after birth:
Don’t allow your child to fall asleep with a pacifier or a bottle of any liquid that contains sugar, including milk and fruit juice
Don’t use your mouth to “clean” a pacifier and put it in your child’s mouth
Before teeth erupt, wipe your baby’s gums with a wet washcloth after feeding
When your child’s first tooth emerges, brush it twice each day using toothpaste with fluoride
Gently massage sore gums with a teething ring, clean finger, or damp gauze pad
Establish good dental habits by taking care of your own teeth and taking your child to the dentist when the first tooth emerges
At Pediatric Dental Group, your baby’s growing smile is as important to us as it is to you. For over 50 years, we’ve provided personalized, pediatric dental care to Hawaiian children. Our team of experts isn’t just experienced in taking care of little chompers. We also offer kid-friendly care to help put you and your child at ease. Call us at either our Honolulu location at (808) 593-8828 or our Lihue location at (808) 245-2131 to establish a lifetime of healthy teeth.