Source: Web exclusive, October 2010
When you become a mom, it’s natural for your new baby to become the centre of your universe. It’s also pretty normal to neglect your own needs for a little while. You’re desperately busy, exhausted and overwhelmed, and your life has been turned upside down. "There’s a change of focus," says Mary Bertone, a dental hygienist at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Community Oral Health. "You aren’t worried about yourself, you’re worried about baby."
But now is an important time to keep up your mouth care. Not only will it help you stay healthy and pain-free so that you can better attend to baby, but looking after your oral health can actually affect your baby’s health, too.
Here are four good reasons to take care of your mouth after you’re a mom.
1. Your baby isn’t used to bacteria
Your baby enjoys a fairly sterile environment before she’s born. But once she’s out, she’s bombarded with bacteria. A newborn’s immune system is immature, so it’s best to keep germs to a minimum. If your oral hygiene doesn’t make the grade, your mouth may be loaded with bacteria’and that can be a big problem for your baby. Transmitting harmful bacteria from your mouth to hers can happen as easily as kissing those perfect, tiny lips.
Even if you keep your mouth clean, you should never put spoons or other items in baby’s mouth after they’ve been in yours. "Moms may want to test or taste food," says Bertone. "Or the soother drops on the floor when you’re out somewhere, and you pick it up and put it in your mouth to clean it. It’s just instinct. But it’s not a good idea."
2. Your routine has changed
Before your baby came along, you may have had set routines. Perhaps you woke up at the same time each day and brushed your teeth by the clock. All that’s out the window now. "What you normally would have done every day totally changes," says Bertone.
Now, with baby’s nighttime feedings, you may be snacking in the wee hours, at a time when saliva production drops off’along with its capacity to clean your mouth. Even in the daytime, you may be finding it more difficult to brush after meals. As a result, acids may be staying in your mouth longer to attack your teeth. And the food you’re grabbing on the fly may not always be the best choice for your oral health. These changes in routine mean your mouth may suffer, so it’s all the more important to make the time to properly care for your teeth and gums.
3. You’re still hormonal
Around half of pregnant women develop inflammation, redness or soreness in their gum tissue, or bleeding when they brush. This is known as pregnancy gingivitis and is brought about by hormonal changes in your body. But even when your pregnancy is over, it can take weeks’or even months, if you’re breastfeeding’for your hormones to return to their normal balance. Your gums may still be vulnerable.
What’s important to keep in mind is that if you do experience bleeding gums when you brush your teeth, whether or not you’re still pregnant, that doesn’t mean you should avoid that part of your mouth. Be diligent about cleaning that area, and often the bleeding will stop on its own.
4. You’re a new role model
Guess what? Now that you’re a mom, you have a little fan who’s mirroring everything you do. Demonstrating good oral self-care will go a long way towards your child’s own health. As he grows and develops, he’ll be familiar with toothbrushes and paste because he’s used to seeing you tend to your teeth.
Even while your infant’s still tiny, you can get him used to tooth care by wiping his mouth gently with a wet washcloth. It will remove any milk or food that hasn’t been completely swallowed, which helps to keep his mouth clean. This routine will also get him comfortable with someone else’s fingers in his mouth. And when it’s time to use a soft brush, he’ll be ready.
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