We wish all of you a happy Mother’s Day.    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) strongly recommend that infants be seen for their first dental visit by 12 months or when the first tooth erupts.   Equally important is perinatal oral health for mothers-to-be.

The AAPD recognizes that perinatal oral health, along with infant oral health, is the foundation of preventive education and dental care.   Perinatal oral health and education is a stepping stone for a lifetime free from preventable oral diseases for children.   Research has shown links between periodontal (gum) disease and adverse outcomes in pregnancy such as preterm deliveries, low birth weight and preeclampsia.    Also mothers with poor oral health have higher levels of cariogenic (cavity causing) bacteria and are at greater risk of passing that bacteria on to their child.    Here are some recommendations for expectant mothers to reduce these risks:

Oral hygiene:   Toothbrushing with fluoridated toothpaste and flossing helps dislodge food and reduce bacterial plaque levels; improving the periodontal condition.

Diet:   Food cravings may lead to the consumption of foods that increase a mother’s caries risk.   The frequency of consumption of cariogenic substances results in the demineralization/ remineralization process.   We recommend choosing healthy snacks such as vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products, dairy products, lean meats, fish, chicken, eggs, beans and nuts.   Also trying to stick to drinks such as water and low-fat milk; avoiding drinks such as juice, soda, and sports drinks.

Fluoride:   Using fluoridated toothpaste will help reduce plaque levels and help promote enamel remineralization.

Professional oral health care:  Expect mothers should continue routine professional dental care.    The optimal time to perform dental treatment is during the second trimester, however treatment can be accomplished safely at any time during pregnancy.

Delay of colonization:  Reducing the maternal reservoirs of the bacteria that cause caries can delay, reduce or even avoid the transmission to the child.    The bacterial reservoirs can be reduced by reducing frequency of simple carbohydrate intake, applying topical fluoride, removing/restoring active caries, and chewing xylitol gum.   Also avoiding saliva sharing activities such as sharing utensils or cleaning a dropped pacifier by mouth, will help decrease transmission.

Counseling:    The AAPD and AAP recommend establishing a dental home for infants by 12 months of age to further discuss prevention.

By sharing this information with expectant mothers we hope to help their children live a lifetime free of preventable oral disease.    Happy Mother’s Day!