Frequently Asked Questions: Pregnancy and Infancy Oral Health Tips Pregnancy FAQs I maintain a regular regimen of brushing and flossing, and overall, I’m in good oral health. Why do I need to be additionally concerned about my oral health during pregnancy? Good for you for establishing and maintaining this healthy regimen! But there are reasons that you need to be extra vigilant during your pregnancy. Women who are expecting are at risk for pregnancy gingivitis, which is caused by increased hormones during pregnancy. This in turn can lead to a higher risk of gum disease. Pregnant women need to be especially attentive to their oral health needs, which is why state Medicaid programs typically include a dental benefit for pregnant women. What is the connection between gum disease and the health of my unborn baby? Gum disease in pregnant women can lead to early labor and premature babies. Premature babies have an increased risk of death and serious medical problems such as cerebral palsy, lung and digestive disease, intellectual disabilities and vision and hearing loss. When and how often should I see a dentist when I’m pregnant? Coupled with brushing and flossing twice a day, a visit to the dentist plays an important role in helping to ensure the health of your baby. An expectant mother should see a dentist for an oral exam and cleaning at least once during their pregnancy, preferably in the early stages. This gives the dentist an opportunity to evaluate the frequency of future visits and to make any appropriate recommendations, such as a mouth rinse regimen or the use of a prescription fluoride toothpaste. Infancy oral health FAQs Why do I have to concern myself with my infant’s oral health before his or her first tooth? Good oral health activities should start on day one. Babies are not born with the cavity-causing bacteria in their mouths, so it’s a good practice to limit activities that could introduce this bacteria at an early age. These activities could include sharing a spoon or cleaning off a pacifier with your mouth. It’s also a good practice to gently clean your infant’s gums twice a day with a clean, wet washcloth. This not only keeps their gums clean, but it also helps acclimate them to future oral health activities that will be so important in the future. When do first teeth typically appear? It varies from child to child, but generally speaking, the lower teeth appear after eight months, and the upper teeth appear after ten months. Molars typically appear at 26 months. How do I care for these teeth in the early stages? When the first baby tooth appears, you can begin to introduce toothpaste. Take a small amount and smear it on the tooth to clean it and coat it with fluoride. Later, as the baby begins teething, use a soft toothbrush and a small amount of toothpaste to brush your child’s teeth. Work your way up to a pea-sized amount of toothpaste by age three. What other steps can I take to better ensure the oral health of my child? Your child should visit the dentist before their first birthday. In order to ensure consistency of care, it’s also important to establish a “dental home,” or a specifically designated practice where you and your child can develop a patient-dentist relationship through which on-going care can be delivered. By establishing this relationship early, you will not only familiarize your child’s dentist with his or her specific needs, but the consistency of the office setting will also help your child develop a better level of comfort with what to expect and with the providers that deliver care.