Hudson NH Dental Associates Dentists

Newborn Care :: Hudson Dental Associates

Diet and Tooth Decay

During pregnancy many women have a desire to snack between meals. While this is a normal urge, frequent snacking on carbohydrate-containing foods can be an invitation to tooth decay. The decay process begins with plaque, an invisible sticky layer of harmful bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. The bacteria convert sugar and starch that remain in the mouth to acid that attacks tooth enamel. The longer sugars remain in the mouth, the longer the acids attack. After repeated attacks, tooth decay can result.

Eating nutritious, well-balanced meals composed of foods from the five food groups: breads, cereals, and other grains; fruits; vegetables; meat, fish, poultry, and other protein sources; and milk yogurt and cheese. Try to resist the urge to snack constantly. When you need a snack, choose foods that are nutritious for you and your baby such as raw fruits and vegetables and dairy products. Following your physician’s advice regarding diet is your wisest course.


Plaque remaining on your teeth can irritate the gums making them red, tender, and likely to bleed easily. This condition is called gingivitis and can lead to more serious periodontal diseases affecting the gums and bone that anchor your teeth in place.

During pregnancy, your body’s hormone levels rise considerably. Gingivitis, especially common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy, may cause red, puffy or tender gums that tend to bleed when you brush your teeth. This sensitivity is an exaggerated response to plaque and is caused by an increased level of progesterone in your system. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings during your second trimester or early third trimester to help you avoid problems. If you notice any changes in your mouth during pregnancy, see your dentist.

Daily Oral Hygiene

To help prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease, brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day with toothpaste containing fluoride to remove plaque. Be sure to clean between your teeth daily with floss or another interdental cleaner. Ask your dentist or hygienist to show you how to brush and floss correctly. When choosing oral care products, look for those that display the America Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance, your assurance that they have met ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness.

Professional Dental Care

During pregnancy, continue to see your dentist regularly for oral exams and professional teeth cleaning. As part of your regular medical history, inform your dentist that you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant soon. Be sure to tell your dentist about any changes in your health, any medications you are taking (whether prescriptions or over-the-counter products), or any particular advice your physician has given you.

If you are concerned about the effect of any drug, treatment or radiograph (x-ray) might have on your pregnancy, feel free to discuss your concerns with your dentist and physician. Dental disease left untreated during pregnancy can lead to problems for both the mother and fetus. Some dental procedures may be required for diagnosis and management of the problem so that the health of the mother and baby can be maintained.

Your Baby’s Teeth

Your child’s first set of teeth – the “baby” or primary teeth – begin to erupt about six months after birth. Most children have a full set of 20 primary teeth by the time they are three years old. Strong, healthy primary teeth help your child chew food easily, learn to speak clearly, smile, and look attractive. They also help give your child’s face its shape and form.

Sometimes parents and other caregivers do not realize that a baby’s teeth are susceptible to decay as soon as they appear in the mouth. Decay in infants and toddlers are sometimes called early childhood caries, and this condition can destroy the teeth of an infant or young child. It occurs when a child’s teeth are frequently exposed to sugary liquids for long periods. Among these are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened liquids. The good news is that tooth decay is preventable.

The Tooth Decay Process

Teeth are covered with a sticky film called plaque. The bacteria in plaque use sugar to multiply and provide a constant supply of acid to damaged teeth. During sleep, saliva decreases, allowing sugary liquids to pool around teeth for a longer period of time. The sugar stays in the mouth, allows acid to attack longer, and causes more damage and destruction to the teeth.

Effects of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Although, the upper front teeth usually are the first to be affected, all of the first set of teeth, commonly called “baby” or “primary” teeth, can be damaged. This can cause:

  • Permanent teeth development problems (crooked permanent teeth)
  • Cavities
  • Difficulty eating
  • Delayed speech development
  • Ear problems
  • Staining brown spots
  • Poor eating habits
  • Social problems (self-esteem issues can be found in small children)
  • Pain
  • Gingivitis
  • Bone structure damage (periodontal disease)
  • General health problems

Oral Care for Your Baby

You can take a few simple steps to help ensure a healthy smile for your child:

  • Never allow your baby or toddler to fall asleep with either a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juices or sweetened liquids OR a pacifier dipped in sugar or honey. If your baby needs comfort between regular feedings or at bedtime, give the child a clean pacifier recommended by your dentist or pediatrician. Water can substitute for milk if you feel a bottle is necessary.
  • Begin oral care early. Wipe the baby’s gums with a wet washcloth or a clean gauze pad after each feeding. Begin brushing your child’s teeth with a little water as soon as the first tooth appears. If you are considering using toothpaste before age two, ask your dentist or physician first. If your baby experiences sore or tender gums as teeth begin to erupt, gently massage the gums with a gauze pad or wet washcloth. Your dentist or pediatrician may recommend a pacifier, teething ring or special “numbing salve” for the gums.
  • Check your child’s teeth regularly. As soon as the first tooth comes in, lift the baby’s lips and regularly check the teeth for any changes. If you see white or stained areas on the teeth, take your child to the dentist.
  • Teach your child to use a cup at about six months of age. By the age of one the bottle can be eliminated.
  • Make sure your child receives a form of fluoride. Discuss the different forms of fluoride with your dentist.
  • Share information about preventing early childhood tooth decay with others who may be helping to care for your child.

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