Dental Care and Pregnancy
Healthy pregnancies, healthy mothers, and healthy babies is the goal! Pregnancy can present unique challenges that can affect women’s dental health, which also plays a role in overall health. Maintaining good oral hygiene throughout pregnancy is extremely important especially now that a little one is coming into the picture, as a mother’s oral health can also impact her baby’s health.
As hormones like estrogen and progesterone fluctuate throughout pregnancy, women become more susceptible to a number of dental issues. For instance, it is common for pregnant women to experience “pregnancy gingivitis.” This is often characterized by inflamed, tender, and bleeding gums, as well as bad breath. If unmanaged, gingivitis can progress to a more severe form of gum disease known as periodontal disease. One of the main culprits of periodontal disease is dental plaque as a result of poor oral hygiene. Dental plaque is made up of an accumulation of bacteria that stick to teeth and release harmful acids that breakdown tooth enamel. In addition to oral inflammation, periodontitis can lead to breakdown of the bone that house teeth, resulting in tooth mobility and even tooth loss. Not to mention, oral inflammation may trigger inflammatory responses throughout other parts of the body. Researchers have revealed a link between periodontal disease and higher risk of pregnant women having pre-term birth and low birth weight babies.
Women are also likely to experience heart burn and morning sickness during pregnancy, which can result in nausea and vomiting. Unfortunately, stomach acid that enters the oral cavity and contacts teeth can cause enamel erosion.
Pregnant women may also have an increased risk of developing tooth decay. Diet changes including high amounts of carbohydrates can produce an environment that caters to harmful oral bacteria.
Occasionally, pregnant women may experience benign excessive growth of oral tissues, sometimes referred to as “pregnancy tumors,” that tend to resolve after childbirth. They are often seen on the gums in-between teeth and resemble small raspberries.
Here are critical steps to take during pregnancy to help prevent oral health issues:
- It is recommended to visit your dental professionals early in pregnancy and to continue your regular check-ups and cleanings to manage oral health throughout pregnancy. Be sure to inform your dentist of your pregnancy or even if you think you may be pregnant, and update them on any medications you are taking. Visiting the dentist is safe and necessary during pregnancy, and procedures including dental x-rays and local anesthesia are also deemed safe according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
- Maintain good oral health habits including brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily. Make sure you are also removing plaque from the gum line.
- Implement a healthy diet. Consume a balanced diet with nutritious foods including fruits, vegetables, whole-grain products, protein, and dairy products. Try to limit your consumption of foods and beverages high in sugar. Also, be sure to drink fluoridated water throughout the day.
- If you are experiencing acid reflux, the ADA recommends to rinse with 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed in a cup of water about 30 minutes before brushing your teeth to help neutralize the acidic environment.