Avoid These Common Oral Health Blunders Many New Parents Make

Caring for a new baby can be a wonderful but overwhelming experience – especially if your parenting relies more on wisdom than scientific fact. While our mothers and grandmothers may have thought they had all the answers when we were kids, new discoveries are made all the time, and what was thought to be safe 30 years ago may have now been proven dangerous. After all, many people alive today can remember riding around with a baby on their lap in the car!

But while most new parents have the luxury of the internet at their fingertips, as well as libraries, book stores and parenting classes at their disposal, it can sometimes be hard to tell what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to taking care of your baby’s oral health.

Here are a few common practices that are still being used today – but shouldn’t be.

Homeopathic Teething Remedies

You may remember a few years ago one particular brand of teething tablet made headlines when it was found to have lethal levels of belladonna in some tablets. Though not dangerous in small levels, the product failed to distribute the ingredients evenly, increasing the risk of a child overdosing if they ingested a tablet with a higher concentration. Though the tablets are no longer sold in the United States, they are still available in other countries and can be brought back in to the United States relatively easily. Despite the company’s claims to improve its methods, smuggling these tablets into the U.S. is not only illegal, but also extremely dangerous.


Have you ever heard a grandparent or parent talk about chewing on a washcloth soaked in whiskey or putting alcohol on the gums to help ease the pain of teething or a toothache? Well, that wasn’t a good idea back then and it’s definitely not a good idea now. Because babies are so small, alcohol travels through their bodies much faster than it does in adults. That means it takes a lot less alcohol to negatively affect a baby.

Furthermore, babies’ livers are not fully developed until they are at least 3 or 4 months old. For that reason, doctors caution nursing mothers to avoid even drinking one glass of alcohol if they are nursing a newborn. Combining a tiny body with an underdeveloped or newly developed liver is a recipe for disaster, so this is one old wives tail you should definitely skip!

Thumb Sucking

When you have a newborn, it seems like everyone has advice about pacifiers. Some say you should use them, but only briefly, while others say you should avoid them at all costs because they’ll cause overbites or become too difficult a habit to break. No matter where you stand on pacifiers, the good news is many newer pacifiers are made orthodontically friendly, meaning they won’t alter the position of developing teeth.

But while you may still not want to go down the pacifier rabbit hole, a pacifier is still a far better option than allowing your child to suck his or her thumb. That’s because thumb sucking is not orthodontically friendly, and thumb sucking can cause an overbite. Worse yet, when your child sucks his thumb, there’s nothing to throw away. His thumb will always be right there, and stopping him from turning to it for comfort may be near impossible.

Bedtime Bottles and Cups

Milk or baby formula is a miracle drink. Not only does it sustain your baby’s life until he or she is able to eat solids, but it also has the ability to soothe and calm your baby. So, if you’re trying to soothe a crying baby or get him or her to sleep, a bottle of milk in the crib probably seems like a pretty good idea. But believe it or not, while milk and formula are near perfect nutrition during waking hours, sending your baby to bed with a bottle of anything other than water is a very bad idea. That’s because any un-swallowed milk or formula may stay in your baby’s mouth overnight while he or she sleeps, causing cavities and bad breath.

If your baby is still too young to drink water, feed your baby before bed, but be sure to remove any bottles from the child’s crib, and if you can, try to clean the child’s mouth out before bed with a wet cloth or piece of gauze. This will not only teach your child to become more comfortable with brushing and having her mouth examined, but it will also clean away some of the bacteria left behind from your child’s last meal.

Sharing Utensils and Cups

When your baby is a little older, he or she will probably want to try the food on your plate. Sharing food is a wonderful way to bond with your child and encourage healthy eating habits. Unfortunately, it’s also a really simple way to give your child gum disease and cavities. Even if you don’t have either, when you share utensils and cups you are passing s. mutans bacteria between yourself and your child – and that’s one thing you really don’t want to hand down from generation to generation.

If you have any questions about oral care for your baby or child, give Dr. George’s office a call at 724-934-3422.

Dr. Alexandra S. George

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alexandra S. George - D.D.S., L.Vl.I.F. on December 12th, 2017