At birth, the maternity neonatal staff shall examine all parts of the newborn’s body, including the mouth, which has a crucial hole on allowing the infant to suck, swallow, and be breastfed. The movements that the infant performs during breastfeeding make all oral structures like lips, tongue, cheeks, temporomandibular joints, bones, and muscles to be harmonically developed and strengthened, allowing a synchronized action of the vital functions such as sucking, swallowing and breathing through the nose, which will influence the future baby teeth to fit favorably on the jaws. Then, as soon as possible, a pediatric dentist shall perform a more detailed exam in order to promote oral health and favor the infant’s goodquality oflife.
The newborn’s oral cavity has some unique characteristics. Some alterations are usual in such phase, with a good chance of disappearing or changing with time. However, some of these changes might need an intervention, such as cists, tumors, injuries caused by bacteria, fungi, and virus on the soft tissues. The mouth frenula also need to be assessed. There are labial (lower and upper) and lingual frenula. Lingual frenulum, when shortened (ankyloglossia), might interfere in the tongue movements and difficult sucking and swallowing functions. Thus, the infant might have problems to perform an appropriate breastfeeding, and to chew and speak later in time. Therefore, it may be necessary a surgical intervention on this frenulum. If the newborn already has tooth in his/her mouth, a dental radiography shall be taken to decide if this tooth should be kept in the mouth or if it should be removed. If, for any reason, this tooth is extracted, a pediatric dentist shall plan to regain aesthetics and function of the extracted tooth.
During the newborn’s dental examination, educational and preventive actions should be introduced to promote oral health, combined with the monitoring of the dental arches and orofacial growth and development, favoring health, function, and aesthetics of the smile. Some babies might need a joint action of the pediatric dentist with other professionals from correlated areas – pediatrician, otorhinolaryngologist, physical therapist, speech language pathologist, and nutritionist – to achieve a correct evaluation, which is fundamental to make the preventive actions successful.
Dentistry tips for newborn parents:
1. Exclusive breastfeeding: breast milk is the ideal food for the baby’s nutrition and for emotional comfort. This moment shall be calm and cozy, both for the mother and the baby, with the baby remaining seated as most time as possible. During breastfeeding, the baby does an oral physical exercise that stimulates the entire musculature of the mouth. Thus, it is very important that the baby executes suction with great effort. Furthermore, to be properly fed, a labium sealing must exist on the mammary areola, which promotes the necessary pressure for the milk to come, compelling the baby to breathe through the nose. This pressure and milking movement promotes nasal
breathing exercise, correct tongue positioning, and growth stimulus for a proper positioning of the dental arches.
2. Avoid using pacifiers and baby bottles: breastfeeding is the best, however if it is not possible, request some guidance to the pediatrician and pediatric dentist.
3. Hygiene of mouth without teeth: there is no need to clean the newborn’s mouth, because the breast milk itself protects the entire oral cavity.
4. Precautions to avoid falls and traumas involving the mouth: simple preventive measures help, such as teaching relatives and caregivers to hold the baby firmly and delicately; do not allow children to hold the baby without the help of an adult; ensure quality and safety of cradles, changing tables and baths; avoiding rugs or using grippers are actions that can make all the difference.
5. Regular preventive appointments to the pediatric dentist: talk to the pediatric dentist about when is the proper time for your baby’s next appointment. Visiting the pediatric dentist regularly, from the lactation stage until adolescence, is essential for keeping the oral health.
by Doris Rocha Ruiz