Since February is National Children's Dental Health month, I thought I would take this time to discuss some important protocols to teach moms and dads how to care for their children's teeth. Teaching your kids the importance of oral care is a priceless gift. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked until it's too late and then once on the road to chronic dental decay and disease, it's a difficult, painful and expensive process to reverse. Prevention is key and oral care really starts in-utero so it's crucial that the right prenatal nutrition is administered.
At about 5 weeks' gestation, the first buds of primary teeth show up in the baby's jaws. At birth, the baby has a full set of 20 primary teeth (10 in the maxilla/upper jaw, 10 in the mandible/lower jaw) waiting to erupt under the gums. Primary teeth are also known as baby teeth, or deciduous teeth and development usually stops by age 6. Ensuring that the right amount of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D3 and K2 will aid in the formation of your babies bones, including the development of their facial structure. Incorporating grass-fed, organic eggs or ghee from pasture fed cows are good sources of these vitamins. It's also important to include phosphorous rich foods such as organic meat, soaked nuts or seeds and certain veggies and fruits like broccoli, Brussel sprouts or peaches (all organic of course). Taking a phosphorous supplement is also an option. Please avoid fluoride toothpaste, fluoride antibiotics and medications or fluoride laced teas while pregnant. Fluoride can reduce the IQ of your baby according to several studies and too much fluoride can cause dental fluorosis. This is an increasingly popular condition that indicates too much fluoride was ingested during their teeth development. There is no need to have this "drug" while pregnant.
The ultimate gift you can give your baby is to breast-feed. Nothing nutritionally compares to momma's milk. It is the highest level of nutrition and important that a varied, wholesome and organic diet be ingested in order to supply all of the nutrients needed for proper bone and teeth health. Mother's that do breast-feed need large quantities of nutrient-dense food and fresh spring water to nourish not only themselves but baby too.
The motion itself of breast feeding is aiding in the formative development of your baby's jaw. Each time they swallow, the tongue pushes upward and naturally flattens in the roof of the mouth. Many times breast fed babies feed longer and more often, and as a result, the baby does more swallowing. Proper spacing in your child's teeth will help them not develop decay.
If baby is bottle fed, do NOT let the baby sleep with a bottle of milk...period! You do not want your baby to develop "baby bottle rot." There are naturally occurring sugars even in breast milk that if left in the mouth, can produce an acidic environment that will create the opportunity for decay to develop as teeth erupt. Give your baby only water at night if they need a bottle.
It's a good habit to start wiping your babies gums with a damp, soft cloth so they get used to your hands in their mouth. "Baby toothbrushes" can be given as they become more independent. They are helpful even if baby just chews or sucks on it. Dry brushing has lots of benefits. There is no need to apply any kind of toothpaste till they are at least 2 years old. I would personally recommend just using extra virgin coconut oil to brush with in the beginning. It's completely safe to ingest and does not contain glycerin, which is harmful to teeth because it coats them and prevents the natural re-mineralization process that our saliva automatically produces after eating. Coconut oil is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, plus it tastes good so there shouldn't be too much of a fight in that department. Making sure your baby gets their teeth brushed twice daily is super important because this will get them used to the habit of brushing. A good fact to remember is to wait 30 minutes after eating to brush teeth. You don't want to interfere with the bodies natural cavity fighting process via salivary flow.
If your child's teeth come in crowded, floss their teeth for them. You can have your child's head in your lap and get them used to cleaning in-between teeth and under gums. Developing these daily habits are essential in creating superior life-long oral health.
Sometimes yellow or black spots on baby teeth can develop which can indicate a small carious lesion is starting (a cavity in layman's terms). Since teeth have cells called odontoblasts, you can stimulate the body's natural healing defenses by attempting to re-mineralize the weakened cells. This can be done by creating a more alkaline environment using things such as baking soda and warm salt water rinses and, of course, proper nutrition. Soda (fizzy drinks) & starchy foods are the number one cause of decay as they create not only an acidic environment inside the mouth, but the body as a whole. The mouth is not a separate entity from the rest of your system. Give your body what it needs and it will try to heal itself. The food you eat is either living, like fruits and veggies, or it's dead, like GMO's and highly processed foods so giving children a healthy, whole-food based diet is key.
Lack of vitamin D and mouth breathing can also be culprits of demineralized enamel as teeth and the oral microbiome need a proper balance to keep things healthy. Mouth breathing dries out oral tissues and this can lead to serious problems down the road including difficulty with chewing, swallowing, speech abnormalities and malocclusion. If necessary, have your child evaluated by the right professional if you notice they are breathing through their mouth, snoring, or not getting a good night's rest. Many parents swear by "mouth tape" to help keep their child's lips shut for a better night's rest. You can find this tape available online.
Since dental disease is THE most common childhood disease, starting with good habits and proper nutrition as soon as possible will help your child avoid future problems. Ultimately, however, children will follow their parents' example so show them that going to the dentist regularly and proper home care habits are part of your routine as well. As they say, lead by example and remember...only floss the teeth you want to keep!
Questions concerning your child's dental health? I'm available as a personal dental consultant and would love to help. Visit my website www.simplysilvermouthwash.com and book your appointment.