Pregnancy is a beautiful life-changing experience. Your life will never be the same after you find out that you are pregnant. Although filled with excitement it is also a very hormonal time.
Pregnant women are at an increased risk of gum disease and tooth damage. Oral health is important not just for the woman but also for the health of their baby. So it’s vital to understand how to take care of your mouth during pregnancy.
Why is oral health important during pregnancy?
A lot of changes take place in the mouth during pregnancy and this has a lot to do with the changing hormonal levels. These altered states of hormones change the composition of bacteria in the mouth making the gums more susceptible to inflammation and gingivitis. They are more likely to be sore and swollen and may even bleed.
Also, morning sickness, nausea, and vomiting are common in pregnant women which add to the acidity of the mouth leading to enamel erosion. Craving for sweets and changes in diet and a lack of willingness to brush due to nausea can lead to cavities and gum disease. Moreover, existing dental problems can worsen during pregnancy.
Research studies have suggested that pregnant women with gum disease are significantly more likely to go into early labor however a definitive link is not yet established. It is suggested that the chemicals released as a response to the oral bacteria can travel through the bloodstream to the placenta and stimulate early contractions. So to err on the side of caution the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has recognized the importance of oral hygiene in women and has asked pregnant women to make oral hygiene a priority.
Besides, if the expectant mother is aware and active about maintaining oral health, it will prevent early childhood caries in her child.
How can I safeguard my oral health during pregnancy?
- Maintain a strong dental care routine by brushing twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride and floss your teeth daily to clean in-between. If tooth brushing in the morning creates nausea talk to your dentist to find a suitable alternative time to keep your teeth clean. Observe carefully to any changes in your gums; if you find painful tender, bleeding or swollen gums then talk to your dentist. These are signs of gum disease.
- Visit your dentist regularly, a minimum of every six months, for a professional cleaning and examination. Regular gum exams are necessary and important.
- Any elective and optional dental work should be postponed after the birth of the child. Only emergency dental procedures should be done during pregnancy. Cavity filling, crowns, and root canals are safe. However, it is recommended that any dental procedure should be done in the second trimester of pregnancy as the fetus is less vulnerable plus nausea and postural discomfort is least experienced during this time.
- If you have dental pain or swelling, seek immediate dental treatment on an urgent basis. If you need antibiotics they will be carefully monitored by your doctor.
- 5. Dental x-rays are safe after 12 weeks of pregnancy(second trimester) provided your dentist takes extra precautions by covering your abdomen and neck (thyroid collar) with a lead apron to shield them from radiation.
- Dental anesthesia is safe to help you numb the pain so that you feel comfortable during the treatment and are under less stress.
- Tooth extractions are also safe, and if needed should be done in the second trimester of pregnancy.
- Cosmetic dentistry treatments including teeth whitening should be ideally avoided during pregnancy and should be postponed after delivery. But if needed can be done in the second trimester.
How do I deal with Morning Sickness?
If your regular toothpaste is making you nauseous, you can change to a plain, mild and bland tasting one. Do not brush immediately after vomiting since the acid from your stomach can soften the enamel on your teeth and lead to damage and erosion of the enamel.
Rinse your mouth immediately after vomiting with regular tap water to remove the acid. Wait for at least an hour before brushing. Use a mouthwash containing fluoride to strengthen the enamel.
Diet during pregnancy:
Your baby’s teeth start to develop at around six weeks of pregnancy. So what you eat during your pregnancy affects your baby’s teeth. Eat a balanced and healthy diet.
Since calcium is needed for healthy teeth, try to incorporate food high in calcium like milk, yoghurt, cheese, etc. Vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium. It is produced by our skin naturally when exposed to sunlight. 20-30 minutes of sun exposure is optimal for its development. Other sources of Vitamin D are oily fish like salmon and tuna. Also, include the mineral phosphorus found in meat and milk which makes teeth hard.
Women feel hungry very often, which is very normal during pregnancy and get cravings for snacks between meals. Sweet cravings are also very common. Limit snacking frequently on food and beverages loaded with sugar. The higher the frequency of such snacks, the more will be the chance of developing cavities. So choose healthy snacks like fruits, yoghurt, etc.
Drink plenty of fluoridated water as fluoride aids in making your baby’s teeth strong.
What should I do after birth to keep my baby’s teeth healthy?
You can talk to your dentist on how to take care of your baby’s teeth and when you should start brushing. Make sure to schedule your baby’s first appointment with the dentist no later than the first birthday. There are many multi-speciality dental clinics that specialize in taking care of the dental needs of pregnant women as well as providing care for young children.