As hygienists, we put a lot of focus on children. Dr. Alfred Fones’ original intent, after all, was for us to work with children in schools.1 We want to catch them early, train them (and their parents) in home hygiene, make sure they have fluoride available, and watch them grow into caries-free adults with healthy mouths.
But did you ever stop to consider how much we can help children toward that goal before they’re even born? Remember that deciduous teeth begin forming in utero, so a mother’s health and nutrition are vital to the proper formation of teeth. By educating mothers-to-be, we can provide their babies, who are also our patients, with the best possible start on lifelong oral health.
Presuming the mother is healthy, you might say the first step toward baby’s oral health is prenatal vitamins, which include important minerals such as folic acid, iron, iodine, and calcium.2 If the mother lacks certain vitamins during pregnancy, here’s what can happen during baby’s tooth development:
- Vitamin A deficiency: enamel hypoplasia and defective dentin formation
- Vitamin C deficiency: gingival hemorrhaging, improper dentin formation, and gingivitis
- Vitamin D deficiency: loss of lamina dura, enamel hypoplasia, cavitated ECC, and white spot lesions3
A lack of minerals during pregnancy can cause these problems for the baby’s teeth: