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Mar 8, 2017 · Tips for taking control of your oral health during pregnancy

Maintaining optimal oral health is important in all stages of life, but it’s even more important when a woman becomes pregnant. Pregnant women can experience negative, and often unexpected, changes in their oral health that have long-term repercussions.

These can include an increase in cavities due to frequent snacking; heightened gum sensitivity and bleeding exacerbated by an increase in hormones; and, if a woman experiences intense nausea and vomiting, potential erosion of the teeth due to gastric acid.

“The first thing you should do when you find out that you’re pregnant is to schedule a comprehensive dental exam during your first trimester,” says Dr. Salina Massei, a part-time faculty member in the Section of Pediatric Dentistry at the UCLA School of Dentistry. “This appointment should consist of assessing a woman for dental disease and providing prenatal oral health counseling.”

Massei provides these additional tips for taking control of your oral health during pregnancy.

Have any necessary X-rays and other types of major dental treatment, such as elective restorative and periodontal dental procedures, during the second trimester. Not to worry, she says: Radiographs are safe during pregnancy if appropriate radiation safety principles are followed, such as the position of the patient to prevent a drop in the mother’s blood pressure and also avoiding a lengthy appointment.

Nitrous oxide may impose risks in pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Use of the gas in the first trimester has been linked to a potential risk of spontaneous abortions from neonatal respiratory depression, she says, adding that pregnant women should consult their prenatal care provider prior to nitrous oxide administration.

Take care of your own oral health in order to protect your baby’s oral health.

“One thing that is especially important for pregnant women to understand is that their cavity-causing oral bacteria can be transmitted to their infant,” emphasizes Massei. “This transmission occurs from saliva-sharing behaviors such as sharing utensils, cleaning a dropped pacifier or toy with their mouth.”

Mothers can reduce their cavity-causing bacteria levels and minimize the transmission to their child by taking care of their own oral health and treating any existing dental decay during gestation.

For additional information on maintaining oral health during pregnancy, please consult the California Dental Association website, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry guidelines, the American Dental Association website and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website.

Oct 23, 2016 · Alternatives to homeopathic teething tablets and gels


Beware of those homeopathic teething tablets and gels. That’s the word from the Food and Drug Administration, which recently warned parents that the products may pose a risk to infants and young children. In fact, the agency said, consumers should immediately stop using the products.

But fear not. Parents who want to help their children cope with the physical discomfort caused by teething do have alternatives. Just because teething can’t be avoided doesn’t mean that children have to suffer.

Dr. Daniela Silva, chair and professor of the Section of Pediatric Dentistry at the UCLA School of Dentistry recommends the following tips for parents who want to help their little ones through the teething process with the first few teeth:

  • Provide babies with a firm, cold teething ring to relieve soreness. This technique has been used for decades – with no warning from the FDA.
  • Offer them a cold wet towel that has been stored in the freezer.
  • Try chilled hard vegetables and fruit (banana, apple, watermelon) – without any added sweeteners or sugar. These should be larger so as not to pose a choking hazard.
  • If your baby is eating solids, cool, soft foods such as applesauce or yogurt are good choices.
  • If all other methods don’t work and the discomfort persists, consider an appropriate dose of acetaminophen.*

Dr. Silva also cautions parents against assuming that all symptoms are caused by teething. “Many parents believe that congestion, sleep disturbance, fever, rash (other than facial), loss of appetite, and diarrhea can all be blamed on teething,” said Silva. “However, most of the scientific studies done on this topic report no statistical association between teething and these symptoms.”

Tooth eruption, on the other hand, can cause daytime restlessness, thumb-sucking, gum-rubbing, slight temperature elevation and drooling, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, states Dr. Silva.

“I recommend that parents first rule out other possible causes before attributing any signs and symptoms of a potentially serious illness to teething. Most importantly, bring your child to a pediatric dentist by age one for a preventive visit” Dr. Silva said.

To make an appointment with one of UCLA School of Dentistry’s pediatric dentists, please visit the Children’s Dental Center or call (310) 825-5619.

For more information about normal childhood teething, go to or the American Academy of Pediatrics website:

*The use of aspirin has been known to be associated with brain and liver disorders and Reye’s syndrome in children under 2 years of age.

Oct 17, 2016 · Halloween treats can play tricks on your child’s teeth


No doubt about it: Halloween is a fabulously fun holiday, especially for children who come home with a bag of candy after a night of trick-or-treating. But it’s also one of those holidays that can be easily overdone. That is, eating too much candy can lead to stomach aches, sugar highs – and cavities.

“Naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth eat the sugar in candy and produce acid that dissolves the enamel of the tooth, leading to dental decay, or cavities,” said Dr. Francisco Ramos-Gomez, professor of pediatric dentistry at the UCLA School of Dentistry. “A period of high consumption of sugary foods, such as Halloween, can make controlling the pH balance difficult. Furthermore, candy has no nutritional value so it is important to limit when your child can snack on these treats.”

Ramos Gomez suggests the following six tips to help you balance good oral hygiene with enjoyment of  the holiday:

  1. Know that moderation is the key. Dentists are not going to say parents shouldn’t let children have any candy, but they should try to limit the amount of candy children take home. They can also institute a rule that children can have only two small pieces after dinner the week following Halloween. The goal is to decrease the amount of time sugar is in contact with the teeth.
  2. Don’t allow children to snack on candy throughout the day. When that happens, their mouths don’t have enough time to create a healthy environment between snacks and meals.
  3. Sweet snacks and desserts make restoring the pH balance in the mouth difficult. So if your children are consuming lots of sweets, increase their water intake and make sure they eat nutritious foods to help restore that balance.
  4. Be aware that some candy is worse than others for teeth. Consider avoiding sour candies, which have extra acid, and chewy or sticky sweets, like gummies and caramel, which expose teeth to sugar for a longer amount of time.
  5. Consider giving out small toys instead of candy to your neighbors. Or choose candy that can be eaten quickly, thus limiting the amount of time sugar is in contact with the teeth.
  6. Make sure your children brush their teeth before bed – or do it for them if they’re too young. And be sure to use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen their teeth.

Good oral health habits are important not only at Halloween but year-round. Encourage your children to  floss daily, brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and visit the dentist regularly.