As all expectant moms know, pregnancy impacts Mom from head to toe. Headaches, morning sickness, food cravings and aversions, and swollen feet are just some of the challenges expecting moms have to tackle. Less well known, however, is that pregnancy also affects a new mom’s oral health.
Oral Health Impact During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, many women experience red, swollen gums and are at higher risk for developing cavities. Factors like morning sickness and frequent snacking also put extra strain on oral health. Despite these issues, it’s essential to your health and even that of your baby to maintain good dental care during pregnancy.
High Risk of Pregnancy Gingivitis
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that causes redness, swelling and tenderness. A very common occurrence, pregnancy gingivitis may affect as many as 70% of women.
The culprit of pregnancy gingivitis is progesterone, one of the pregnancy hormones. Progesterone increases blood flow to the gums, which can make them inflamed and prone to bleeding. Sometimes, a red lump can appear on the gums, also known as a pregnancy tumor. See your dentist if you have one, but these are harmless and usually go away on their own after pregnancy.
Keep Tooth Enamel Strong
During pregnancy, tooth enamel can be compromised by several factors, including frequent snacking, stomach acid from morning sickness, and increased bacteria in the mouth from hormonal changes. To help keep your enamel strong, you may need to add a few small steps to your oral hygiene routine. If frequent snacking helps keep your morning sickness in check, rinse with water or do a quick brush afterward–when your stomach is relatively calm–to remove any food debris. After a bout of morning sickness, swish with baking soda and water (about a teaspoon dissolved in a cup of water). Doing so will neutralize the stomach acid, preventing erosion to your tooth enamel.
Pregnancy can also heighten your sense of smell, which may turn you off your normal brand of toothpaste. If your toothpaste makes your stomach do a flip flop, try a different flavor. Fruit flavors or kids’ toothpaste flavors might be a welcome change if mint is too strong. Just make sure to use an ADA-approved toothpaste with fluoride, which keeps your enamel healthy and strong.
How Can I Keep My Teeth Healthy During Pregnancy?
Keeping up with daily oral hygiene is essential to help maintain your health and even the health of your little one. Poor oral health has been linked to pregnancy complications, including preterm labor and low birth weight. As you journey toward your due date, here are some tips to help maintain your oral health.
- Keep Up Daily Dental Care Basics – If pregnancy is making you feel run down or sick to your stomach, it can be tempting to skip your daily dental care and simply fall into bed at night. But resist that urge! Maintaining proper oral hygiene is essential to avoiding gum disease and cavities, and even more serious pregnancy complications. Be sure to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes using an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. Floss at least once a day.
- Antimicrobial mouth rinse – To help combat extra plaque, your dentist may recommend a special antimicrobial mouth rinse to use at night. And if you are experiencing frequent morning sickness, you can rinse your mouth afterwards with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with water. This will help protect your teeth from erosion due to the presence of stomach acid.
- Enjoy Healthy Foods and Snacks – If your stomach is constantly upset from pregnancy, it can be pretty difficult to follow a perfectly balanced diet. But as best as you’re able to, try to choose foods that will be easy on your teeth, such as raw veggies, cheese, whole grains, and protein. Avoiding sugary foods and beverages will also help keep your smile strong. When possible, limit snacking, as the presence of food in the mouth causes bacteria to increase, which can lead to gingivitis, plaque, and cavities.
- Schedule Regular Check-ups – Try to keep up with a regular visit to your dentist every six months. At these appointments, the hygienist will be able to remove any hard-to-reach plaque that’s developed. Your dentist will be able to monitor your oral health and offer suggestions for any extra care that might be needed.
When Is the Best Time to See the Dentist While Pregnant?
The ideal time to visit the dentist is during your second trimester, as the baby’s development is more vulnerable during the first trimester and during the third trimester a woman may find it difficult and uncomfortable to lay on her back for prolonged periods of time. Be sure to ask when you can have x-rays and when you should avoid them.
Can I Get a Filling or Major Work Done While Pregnant?
Any major work that may be needed such as restorative work or extractions should be done after the baby’s birth unless it’s an emergency. Even then only a local anesthetic should be used. Though you may not have had problems with anesthetics prior to pregnancy, your whole body is changing, and the tiny baby inside you is very vulnerable. Allergies to very basic medications have been known to develop during pregnancy, and are never heard of again after the birth. If there is concern about the necessity of dental work, talk with your provider.
Reminder! Dental Check-ups During Pregnancy are Safe and Essential
You probably already have lots of doctor’s appointments on your schedule now that you have a little one on board. But be sure that you also continue to see your dentist, too. Regular cleanings, exams, and dental work are safe and essential for your health and that of your baby.
To schedule your appointment today, please contact us. Affiliated Dentists offers general, cosmetic, and pediatric dentistry in Madison, Wisconsin.
Dental Care During Pregnancy brought to you by Dr. Mark Gustavson