Expectant mothers, children and teens need preventive dental visits


CONTACT: Tommy Johnson, D.M.D.
(334) 206-5398

October is National Dental Hygiene Month, and the Alabama Department of Public Health Oral Health Office wants to take this opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of good oral health, especially for expectant mothers and children.

A pregnant woman’s oral health can impact her unborn baby’s oral health status. When a woman is pregnant, she may be more prone to periodontal (gum) disease and cavities, which can affect her baby’s health. Controlling oral diseases in pregnant women potentially can reduce the transmission of oral bacteria from mothers to babies. Once a baby is born, mothers can pass decay-causing bacteria to their children through saliva.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 60 and 75 percent of pregnant women have an early stage of periodontal (gum) disease called gingivitis. This occurs when the gums become red and swollen from inflammation that may be aggravated by changing hormones during pregnancy. If left untreated, the bone that supports the teeth can become loose, and the gums can get infected and result in lost teeth. Poor pregnancy outcomes have been associated with gum disease, and pregnant women may also be at risk for cavities due to changes in behaviors, such as different eating habits.

State Dental Director Dr. Tommy Johnson said, “Several research studies have suggested that women with periodontal disease may be more likely to deliver babies prematurely or at low birthweight than mothers with healthy gums. Maintaining periodontal health helps to ensure a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.”

Pregnant women should follow these three steps to protect their teeth:

  • See a dentist before delivery
  • Brush twice a day, especially before bedtime.
  • Floss daily.

In childhood, cavities (also known as caries or tooth decay) are one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning. Children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who have good oral health. The good news is that cavities are preventable.

Parents and caregivers should do the following for babies:

  • Wipe gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth in the morning after the first feeding and right before bed to wipe away bacteria and sugars that can cause cavities.
  • When teeth come in, start brushing twice a day with a soft, small-bristled toothbrush and plain water.
  • Visit the dentist by the baby’s first birthday to spot signs of problems early.
  • Talk to the child’s dentist or doctor about putting fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears.
  • For children younger than age 2, ask about the use of fluoride toothpaste.

For children:

  • See that children brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Watch to see that they use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and always spit out instead of swallow.
  • Drink tap water that contains fluoride.
  • Request dental sealants be applied when appropriate.

For teens:

  • Encourage teens to follow good oral health habits begun in childhood.
  • Limit sugary snacks and soft drinks.
  • Wear a mouthguard if playing sports.
  • Avoid piercing tongue and lips.

Dr. Johnson reminds everyone, “Practice good oral hygiene by brushing teeth thoroughly and flossing between the teeth to remove dental plaque. In addition to better health, these practices can prevent the need for extensive dental work. Throughout the lifespan, all ages need to visit their dentist regularly.”

More information is available at alabamapublichealth.gov/oralhealth.


County health departments throughout Alabama provide a wide range of confidential and professional services. Contact your local county health department for additional information.

Mission: To promote, protect, and improve Alabama’s health

Vision: Healthy People. Healthy Communities. Healthy Alabama.