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Infants need dental care, too (11/13/97)=09

=09=09=09=09=09 Just because they're infants doesn't mean they don't need good dental hygiene.

Franklin Garcia-Godoy, DDS, and Esther Neuman, DDS, pediatric dentists at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, encourage parents of children from birth to 18 months of age and even pregnant mothers to learn how to protect their children's dental health.

"Parents have the opportunity to help their babies have healthy teeth, which, in turn, will help the babies to talk, chew and have a pretty smile, " Dr. Garcia-Godoy says. "This type of preventive care is cheap and easy to do and very rewarding."

He directs the Infant Oral Health Clinic at the Health Science Center and has found that about 15 percent of children under five years old in the region suffer from bottle caries -- rampant decay of the baby teeth from poor oral health habits including sleeping with a bottle of milk or other sugary liquid.

He recommends putting a baby to bed without a bottle. "Some alternatives to the bottle at bedtime are giving them a security blanket or a teddy bear, singing or playing music, holding or rocking the child, giving a back rub, using an infant swing or musical mobile, and reading or telling a story."

If a bottle is used, he recommends filling it with water.

He also recommends that mouth care begin at birth. "After each feeding, the baby's gums and teeth should be wiped with a soft, damp washcloth or still better, a sterile gauze pad."

At the Health Science Center's infant clinic, Dr. Garcia-Godoy and Dr. Neuman examine children, counsel the parents regarding the best diet for the child, give instruction in proper tooth cleaning, evaluate and recommend an optimal fluoride program, test the bacteria in the mouth of the child and in the parents' mouths, and develop an individualized prevention program.

"Parents and grandparents may transmit their own oral bacteria to the children through kissing and sharing food," Dr. Garcia-Godoy says. "We test for streptococcus mutans bacteria in the child and in the family members to help determine their risk of dental decay."

The Infant Oral Health Clinic may be reached by calling (210) 567- 6931.

Contact: Mike Lawrence (210) 567-2570