When Bethany, an awesome mom in our Mommy & Me program and accomplished dentist, came to us and asked if she could hold a workshop on the importance of oral hygiene for infants and toddlers, we of course, said, “yes, please!” Below she shares important insights and tips.
Cavities are Contagious, and Other Facts from a Dentist Mom
by Bethany M. Kum, DDS
As a first-time mom and dentist who has worked in private dental offices, specialty offices, and as an instructor for dental students at USC’s community clinics, I’ve realized that expectant parents and parents of infants aren’t provided with much information about the importance of dental hygiene and care for young children. I started looking into how visits to the dentist stacked up against visits to the pediatrician for infants, and was shocked to learn that 89% of one-year-old children had an office-based physician visit, while only 1.5% of children the same age had a dental office visit. I also was surprised to discover that dental cavities are the most prevalent disease of childhood! When my son, Camden (who will be 10 months in February) and I started coming to The Family Room, I wanted to find a way to share what I had learned with my new mom community in the hopes of increasing awareness and encouraging parents to prioritize good dental hygiene with their little ones at a much earlier age.
I hosted a small workshop for my Mommy & Me cohort last month, so I thought I’d share my top dental do’s, don’t’s and “OMG, really?!” tips with The Family Room’s online community. Here you go:
- Your child should see a dentist by the time they turn one
Don’t worry if you’re past the one-year mark. But do get in there soon. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends the first visit to the dentist when the first baby tooth erupts (usually around 6 months), and no later than their first birthday. Even though they won’t have all of their baby teeth until around 25-33 months old, it’s important to learn more about age appropriate oral hygiene to head off issues like tooth decay, as well as address developmental concerns around teething, thumb-sucking and more.
- Nutrition matters
I’ll admit, I have a pretty intense sweet tooth, so I’m not about to tell you that your little one shouldn’t enjoy delicious treats. But choose wisely. Sticky foods are worse than whole foods. Even healthy foods can leave bacteria-friendly sugar behind, so encourage your toddler to drink plenty of water after meals. If juice is a must, limit it to mealtimes. Less snacking between meals helps decrease your chances of cavities.
- Cavities are contagious!
Gross, but true. Anyone who has close contact with your little one can transfer their cavity-causing bacteria to the baby. Cavities are infectious, and can spread through saliva. So make sure everyone around baby is actively managing their oral health, for their own sake and the baby’s.
- Expectant moms – this matters for you too
Poor oral health has been linked to pregnancy complications and pre-term birth, among other conditions, so expectant moms, this applies to you, too! It is safe to see your dentist while you are pregnant, so please don’t skip out on your appointments, and be sure to talk with your dentist before any procedure to ensure you’re doing what’s best for you and your baby.
Thanks for reading, and keep smiling!