The dental importance of the 1st year of life (Part 1)

It goes without saying the first year of life can influence much of a child’s perception and understanding about the world around them. It also has a huge impact on their health. But did you know the first year of life also has a huge impact on a child’s dental health and their risk for tooth decay?

When a child is born, their mouths are sterile blank canvases, ready to learn about tastes, touch, temperature and texture. Much of what a child experiences in infancy is done with their mouths as they learn to suckle, start to mumble, blow “raspberries” and taste their first food source (breast milk). As an infant develops, the use of their mouth evolves and becomes their main interface with the world as they start to put all sorts of objects in their mouth to sense the world around them.

In the first year of life, infants are developing their own perception about oral health and their diet. At the same time, a bacterial flora develops in their sterile little mouths. Babies have been found to acquire the vast majority of their oral bacteria and beliefs about oral care from their mother. It therefore goes without saying that a mother, or soon-to-be-mother, needs to know what they can do to set their children’s dental health up for the rest of their lives.

Research has shown that good dental health before, during and after pregnancy is vital. Morning sickness, sweet cravings, intolerances to strong tastes and smells like toothpastes make it very easy for dental health to deteriorate during pregnancy. It starts with the basics; the mum-to-be needs a dental check and clean, and should have any dental treatment performed prior to the birth of the child (if safe to do so). Getting mums to look after their teeth and keeping their dental health optimal leading up to and after the birth of the child is extremely important.

Tip 1

Infants start to develop a bacterial flora in the mouth from as early as three months. A lot of this bacteria is inherited directly from their mother due to their close contact, therefore mums (and dads) need to have great dental health. Maintaining good dental health as parents ensures the number of bad disease causing bugs (mainly Step. Mutans) are kept low, and ensures a higher percentage of healthy bugs in the mouth. In turn, this provides your child the best opportunity to acquire a similar balance of good and bad bugs that sets them up for life. It will at the very least reduce the spread of bad bugs to your child.

Over the next few posts we’ll share a few simple ways to set your child’s dental health up for life.

Babies Pacifier

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