Your newborn's mouth

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- You've just returned home from the hospital with your newborn baby and you feel somewhat overwhelmed. Sleep schedules are all messed up, you struggle to find all the answers in self-help books or blogs, and the baby can only cry when something is wrong.

Are they crying because they are hungry, sleepy, in pain, grumpy, or just sad because momma left for 1.3 seconds? At least you don't have to worry about teeth or dental care for another year or so, right? Well, not so fast ...

In celebration of February being National Children's Dental Health Month, the 20th Dental Squadron will be presenting a few articles regarding dental health for your children. 

This week we will focus on your newborn's mouth.

Did you know that babies' mouths contain no cavity-causing bacteria when they are born? They acquire these bacteria through everyday contact from those around them.

Unfortunately, trying to prevent this from happening is impossible. Babies are notorious for grabbing and sucking on their sibling's spoon, and crazy Aunt Martha always has to kiss the baby on the lips.

So, if you can't prevent bacteria from entering their mouth, can you minimize the effects on their mouth?  Definitely.

First, it is never too soon to keep your baby's mouth clean.

In fact, you should begin cleaning their mouth soon after their first feeding.  In other words, start on day one.

Until the first tooth erupts, you should wipe the baby's gums with a soft cloth dampened with warm water. This helps keep the gums clean, and familiarizes the baby with other people working in their mouth. 

Second, pediatric dentists recommend that your baby's first visit to the dentist happen after the first tooth shows through the gum, but no later than the baby's first birthday.

At the first visit, you can expect an examination of your baby's mouth, any supplemental instructions on cleaning your baby's teeth, and steps to preventing future tooth decay. The visit also provides a great chance for the baby to start getting used to seeing a dentist. If dental treatment ever needs to be accomplished, your baby will be more comfortable when they receive care because of these initial visits.

Having a newborn can always be a little scary. With these simple instructions for proper dental health, tooth decay doesn't have to be something else to worry about.

To enroll your child in the TRICARE Dental Plan, visit http://www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/Dental/TDP.aspx