We all know, toothbrushing twice a day is the general accepted norm in many parts of the world. Toothbrushing refers to brushing of teeth. So, What about when baby has no teeth yet? Does baby's mouth and gums still need to be cleaned?
The answer is YES. Baby's mouth and gums need to be cleaned.
While there may be no teeth you can see in the mouth of your newborn, baby's mouth is going to be home for 20 baby teeth and eventually, 28-32 adult teeth (in most cases). Preparing the mouth (and oral environment) well, right from the beginning, gives children a head start to good oral health for life.
- It is easier to establish good habits from the beginning, rather than trying to change bad habits later.(1) Feeding, dietary and oral hygiene habits influence the types of germs that establish in the mouth, as well as the quantity and proportion of different germs in the mouth.(2-4)
- The oral flora (good and bad germs in our mouths), establish themselves permanently in the first 3 years of life.(5) If there are proportionately fewer bad germs in the mouth to begin with, the potential harmful effects from bad germs would be reduced, for life. For example, mutans streptococci (one of the main acid-loving, acid producing germs causing tooth decay) can permanently establish themselves in the mouth even before teeth emerge, if baby is exposed to these germs frequently (these germs originate from adult mouths and are transferred via saliva)*.(6) By cleaning baby's mouth and gums regularly, mutans streptococci don't get to establish themselves easily. By delaying these germs from taking up permanent residence, the risk of dental decay is reduced.
- There is a biological basis for children's natural preference for sweet tastes (breastmilk (which is sweet) for survival and sweetness also has analgesic effects).(7) In addition, there are learned preferences to tastes which develop in the first years of life, through repeated experiences, and this may influence the development of oral diseases e.g. sweet preference, higher risk for tooth decay.(8-10) By cleaning baby's mouth and gums after feeding, sweet tastes are not able to linger and contribute to the learned preference for becoming a "sweet tooth".
So YES, it is important to clean baby's mouth and gums EVERY DAY. Start as early as possible, preferably from age zero.
Next time, let's explore the different options available for cleaning baby's mouth and gums!
Hugs & Smiles,
- Nilsen P, Roback K, Brostrom A, Ellstrom P-E. Creatures of habit: accounting for the role of habit in implementation research on clinical behaviour change. Implement Sci 2012 June 9; 7: 53. doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-53.
- Marsh PD. Contemporary perspective on plaque control. Br Dent J 2012; 212(12): 601-606. Doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.2012.524.
- Bowden GH, Li YU. Nutritional influences on biofilm development. Adv Dent Res 1997; 11(1): 81-99.
- Thomas JG, Nakaishi LA. Managing the complexity of a dynamic biofilm. J Am Dent Assoc 2006; 137(Suppl.):10S-15S.
- Berkowitz RJ. Mutans streptococci: acquisition and transmission. Pediatr Dent 2006; 28(2): 192-198.
- Wan AK**, Seow WK, Purdie DM, Bird PS, Walsh LJ, Tudehope DI. Oral colonization of Streptococcus mutans in six-month-old predentate infants. J Dent Res 2001; 80(12): 2060-2065.
- Mennella JA, Bobowski NK. The sweetness and bitterness of childhood: insights from basic research on taste preferences. Physiol Behav 2015; 152(Pt B): 502-507. doi:10.1016/physbeh.2015.05.015.
- Birch LL. Development of food acceptance patterns in the first years of life. Proc Nutr Soc 1998; 57(4): 617-624.
- Mallan KM, Fildes A, Magarey AM, Daniels LA. The relationship between number of fruits vegetables and noncare foods tried at age 14 months and food preferences, dietary intake patterns, fussy eating behaviour, and weight status at age 3.7 years. J Acade Nutr Diet 2016; 116(4): 630-637. doi: 10.1016/jand.2015.06.006.
- Diaz-Garrido N, Lozano C, Giacaman RA. Frequency of sucrose exposure on the cariogenicity of a biofilm-caries model. Eur J Dent 2016; 10(3): 345-350. doi: 10.4103/1305-7456.184163.
*For more details - read previous blog post, "Let's prevent transfer of decay-causing germs"(14/10/2016)
**author is Annetta Tsang (nee Wan)