An oral health guide for newborns and new parents

Studies suggest that breastfeeding can be beneficial to a newborn’s oral and overall health. It’s just as important for parents to keep an eye on their own oral health. Here are a few tips to help parents and babies enjoy healthy smiles.

Breastfeeding may help with teeth alignment.

When possible, breastfeeding is the recommended choice for most babies’ overall health. Not only does it provide all the nutrients infants require, but it also reduces several health risks for babies.

Breastfeeding may also help prevent the misalignment of a child’s bite. One study found that breastfed babies are less likely to develop crossbites, open bites, and overbites. However, breastfeeding is not a guarantee that your child will not need braces someday, as other factors are also involved. Your dentist can check your child’s bite to see if alignment issues are developing.

Breastfeeding can decrease the risk of baby bottle tooth decay.

Baby bottle tooth decay happens when babies’ teeth are exposed to drinks that contain sugar. This kind of tooth decay can occur because a baby is put to bed with a bottle containing formula, milk, or fruit juice. Children shouldn’t fall asleep with a bottle containing anything but water.

While breast milk also contains sugar and breastfed babies can get cavities, breastfeeding may help reduce the risk of this kind of tooth decay. It is important to wipe a baby’s gums, breastfeeding or not, with a warm, clean washcloth before they are teething.

Once baby teeth appear, it’s time to take them to their first dentist visit. Dental hygiene is also important for temporary baby teeth as they play an important part in childhood development.

Taking care of parents' oral health

Of course, most new parents are busy and often sleep-deprived. Exhaustion combined with a busy schedule can cause parents to neglect their own oral health. New parents should continue to brush twice a day, floss every day, stay hydrated, and schedule regular dental checkups. By continuing to take good care of their oral health, parents can help ward off gum disease and cavities.

Not only is oral health important to parents, but if tooth decay or cavities are present, bacteria could be transferred to the baby’s mouth simply by sharing a spoon. Parents should avoid sharing spoons, straws or other utensils with babies or using their mouths to clean pacifiers.