Looking after your teeth is important throughout your entire life, from the instant they first appear (in fact even before, of which more later) to old age. It’s not merely a question of making sure that they look their very best – although this can have a major positive impact upon every area of your life – but also recognising that good oral health also leads to good general health and that some dental conditions, such as gum disease, have been linked to more serious illnesses such as cardiac problems. Pregnancy To this end, you should visit a dental clinic in London, or anywhere else in the UK, as soon as any problems occur and also on a regular basis for check-ups. This is particularly true if you happen to be an expectant mother, since hormonal changes which occur during pregnancy can increase the likelihood of some dental problems, such as bleeding gums. If you are pregnant and notice your gums becoming swollen, sore or bleeding, then you should seek your dentists’ advice immediately, and also book an appointment with a hygienist to get some advice on the best technique for keeping your teeth clean. There is no truth, however, to rumours that a lack of calcium during pregnancy might affect your teeth, or the old wives tale which states that women lose a tooth for every baby they have. Tips for Care During Pregnancy: Some women worry that dental treatment during pregnancy might be unsafe, but this is not the case, except in the case of amalgam fillings, which the Department of Health advises against during pregnancy. If you are worried, you should have a word with your dentist, who will be happy to explain any treatment and reassure you as to its’ safety. As far as dental x-rays are concerned, dentists generally try to avoid them during pregnancy, although an exception may be made if you require root canal treatment. Women are often warned against smoking and drinking during pregnancy due to the harm this may cause to their unborn baby. What many women might not realise, however, is that smoking and drinking can also have a detrimental effect upon the dental health of their unborn baby. The baby of a mother who smokes and drinks is likely to be born underweight and go on to have poor dental health. It should be borne in mind that the adult teeth are already present in the jaw beneath the baby teeth, so smoking and drinking is also likely to result in poor adult teeth as well. The surest means of making sure that your baby is born with a good chance of having strong, healthy teeth is to eat a balanced, healthy diet, rich in the vitamins and minerals you both need. It is particularly important to eat plenty of calcium, as this is used by the body to produce strong and healthy bones and teeth. Pregnant women often suffer from ’morning sickness’, and if this actually results in them being sick then it is vital that they rinse their mouth immediately with plain water, as otherwise the acid in the vomit will attack the enamel of their teeth. Baby’s teeth The process of teething generally begins around the age of 6 months, and continues until all 20 of the baby teeth have appeared. This is followed by the appearance of adult teeth, which begin to come through the gums at approximately 6 years of age and continue until roughly the age of 14 years, when all of the adult teeth, with the exception of wisdom teeth, will have appeared. Distressing though it may sometimes be, there is no getting away from the fact that the teething process can be uncomfortable for your baby, if not downright painful. During teething, your baby may develop cheeks which redden and become warm to the touch and may also run something of a temperature. The good news is that it is possible to buy teething gels which you can massage onto the gums in order to alleviate some of the pain, and chomping on a cool teething ring can also help. Your Child’s First Dentist Appointment: When it comes to introducing your baby to the dentist, there’s really no such thing as ‘too soon’. Take your baby along to your own check-ups so that they get used to the environment of the dental clinic, seek advice from your dentist on problems such as teething pains and begin actual check-ups from either 6 months or the date when your baby’s first teeth appear. After the age of 6 months, your baby can start to move on from milk to solid foods although the solids should still be alternated with milk for a while. Some concern has been expressed that that natural sugars in breast milk may cause decay in baby’s teeth, but, since breast milk is by far the best food for your baby, this shouldn’t be allowed to put you off. As long as you make every effort to keep your baby’s teeth clean, there shouldn’t be any problem. If you opt to bottle feed instead, then you must remember that some formula milk does contain sugar, and that you should therefor clean your baby’s teeth an hour or so after the last feed of the day. You should never add sugar to bottled milk, or to any other liquid your baby drinks, since sucking on the teat of a bottle containing liquid with added sugar is likely to cause cavities. You should also remember that babies do not have a naturally sweet tooth, so you should try to avoid encouraging one by adding sugar to drinks, sticking to pure milk and water. The question of when to wean your baby totally off milk and onto to solids is one which will vary from child to child. Using a bottle after the age of 6 months can lead to dental problems, however, so from that age on you should endeavour to switch to a special cup which, in time, they will be able to sit up and hold. Once your baby has made the switch to solid foods, it is imperative that you encourage a diet which is healthy and will help to keep their teeth healthy. Savoury items such as vegetables, cheese and pasta are recommended above sweet items and, if your baby drinks between meals, it is vital to give them just milk or water rather than sugary or acidic drinks. Almost all of our water supplies now contain fluoride, so it may not be necessary to give your baby a fluoride supplement as well. If your dentist recommends it, then you can start giving such a supplement from the age of 6 months. As soon as your baby begins to teethe, you should start cleaning their teeth for them, as it will be a few years until they are able to do it for themselves. When the teeth first start to appear, you may find it easier to gently wipe them with a piece of clean gauze or cloth. Put a small smear of toothpaste onto the finger and massage it into the teeth and gums. As more teeth break through, it will be simpler to invest in a specific baby toothbrush. Ask advice from your dentist as to which you should purchase. As your child gets older, you can gradually shift more of the responsibility for cleaning their teeth over to them, teaching them and instilling excellent dental hygiene habits. Many babies are comforted by sucking their thumb or a dummy (also known as a soother), but this should be discouraged if possible, as it can lead to orthodontic problems over time. If these problems become severe enough, then your child may need to be fitted with a brace. If your child does need a dummy, then look for one with a British Health Foundation approved logo, as this will be orthodontic in design. One thing which must be avoided is dipping your child’s dummy in fruit juices, honey, syrup or anything containing sugar, especially at bedtime, since the harmful sugars and acids will have all night to spend attacking your child’s teeth. One last thing to bear in mind is that if your child damages a tooth, in an accident for example, you must consult your dentist immediately. A damaged tooth which is left untreated may become discoloured.