Expecting a baby? You must know that means big changes in your body will certainly occur in the next nine months at least. There is so much to think about – but never neglect your oral health. Pregnancy has major effects on the body, and your mouth is no exception.
Visiting a dentist while pregnant is highly recommended for your own well-being and that of your unborn child. Why?
During pregnancy, you have more blood flowing through your body, more acid in your mouth, and rising hormone levels. These increase the risk of developing gum disease which, in turn, may affect the health of your developing baby. Pregnant women who have gum disease are more likely to have premature or underweight babies, foster transfer of decay-causing bacteria, and cause early childhood decay.
How Does Pregnancy Affect My Oral Health?
Changes in hormonal and acidic levels during pregnancy put you at a higher risk for tooth decay, gum diseases such as “pregnancy gingivitis”, and oral growths called “pregnancy tumors”. If gum disease becomes severe in an expectant mother, the infection can affect the unborn baby’s development.
Pregnancy gingivitis occurs more frequently during pregnancy because the increased level of hormones exaggerates the way gums react to the irritants in the plaque. However, it is still plaque — not the hormones — that is the major cause of gingivitis. If you notice persistent gum bleeding during pregnancy, it is recommended to be proactive about it. Your dentist might recommend more frequent professional teeth cleanings, at least until your baby is born.
Keeping your teeth clean, especially near the gum line, will help dramatically reduce or even prevent gingivitis during your pregnancy. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to reduce the chance of irritating your gums and a toothpaste good for preventing plaque and tartar build-up. Substituting sweets with more wholesome foods such as fresh fruits or vegetables is also better for your teeth.
Some women also develop what is alarmingly called “pregnancy tumors” – still caused by hormonal changes. Don’t let the name scare you; pregnancy tumors are not malignant. The raspberry-looking growths between the teeth most often appear during the second trimester. Your dentist can remove them if they cause you discomfort but in most cases, the tumors will vanish after giving birth.
Morning Sickness and Your Teeth
Morning sickness is an inevitable part of pregnancy for many women. If you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux later in your pregnancy, the gastric acid can have the same effect on your teeth which may lead to teeth erosion. No matter how tempted you are to brush your teeth immediately after a bout of morning sickness, the best way to protect your enamel is to swish with baking soda and water first to neutralize the acid from your stomach.
How Can I Maintain Good Oral Health During Pregnancy?
✓ Visit your dentist regularly. While you are pregnant, your teeth and gums need special attention. Expectant mothers are advised to visit their dentist at least once every 6 months.
✓ Eat healthy foods. Your baby’s teeth start to develop between 3 and 6 months of pregnancy. They would be needing nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamins A, C, and D to help grow healthy teeth.
✓ Limit sweets. Having too many sweet foods or drinks can lead to tooth decay. Instead, drink lots of water and substitute sweets with healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
Be sure to inform your dentist that you are pregnant as soon as you have known. Discuss any stresses, past miscarriages, and drugs you are taking. This information will be vital on how your dentist will attend to your needs. There must be adjustments to your dental treatments and medications to avoid any prenatal risks and complications.
Customarily, X-rays, dental anesthetics, pain medications, and antibiotics are not prescribed during the first trimester, unless it’s absolutely necessary. During the last three months of pregnancy, sitting for long periods of time in the dental chair can become uncomfortable, so it is best to schedule your dental appointments during the second trimester. By this time, the development of the fetal organs is complete and the risks of side effects are lower. In addition, nausea and postural discomfort are often less during the second trimester.
If you have any doubts or concerns, insist that your dentist and physician discuss your particular needs before any treatment is facilitated. If your dentist prescribes medication, stick to the right amount and do not exceed the prescribed dosage.