There is a misconception from many women that it is unsafe to visit the dentist during pregnancy. This is not the case, continuing with your dental check up every 6 months is recommended and of course make an appointment if you are are experiencing any dental problems.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy alter the way the body responds to bacteria (plaque). You should keep up your Oral Hygiene routine as per normal.
Pregnancy can lead to dental problems in some women, including gum disease and increased risk of tooth decay. During pregnancy, your increased hormones can affect your body’s response to plaque (the layer of germs on your teeth).
Pregnancy does not automatically damage your teeth. The old wives’ tale that warns a woman to expect a lost tooth for every baby is false. If the mother’s intake of calcium is inadequate during pregnancy, her bones – not her teeth – will provide the calcium her growing baby needs. This calcium loss is quickly made up after breastfeeding is stopped. However, the demands of pregnancy can lead to particular dental problems in some women.
With proper hygiene at home and professional help from your dentist, your teeth should remain healthy throughout pregnancy.
Your dental health can affect your developing baby
Research has found a link between gum disease in pregnant women and premature birth with low birth weight. Babies who are born prematurely may risk a range of health conditions including cerebral palsy and problems with eyesight and hearing.
Estimates suggest that about 18 out of every 100 premature births may be triggered by periodontal disease, which is a chronic infection of the gums. Appropriate dental treatment for the expectant mother can reduce the risk of premature birth by more than 80 per cent, according to one study.
Pre-pregnancy dental health
You are less likely to develop dental problems during pregnancy if you already have good oral hygiene habits.
- Brush your teeth twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste.
- Floss between your teeth.
- Visit your dentist regularly (generally every 6 months)
The hormones associated with pregnancy can make some women susceptible to gum problems including:
Gingivitis (gum inflammation) – this is more likely to occur during the second trimester. Symptoms include swelling of the gums and bleeding, particularly during brushing and flossing between teeth
Periodontal disease – pregnancy may worsen this chronic gum infection, which is caused by untreated gingivitis and can lead to tooth loss.
During pregnancy, the gum problems that occur are not due to increased plaque, but a worse response to plaque as a result of increased hormone levels.
Talk to your dentist about any gum problems or queries that you might have. Switch to a softer toothbrush and brush your teeth regularly, at least twice every day. Use toothpaste that contains fluoride (if you’re not already) to help strengthen your teeth against decay.
If you had gum problems during pregnancy, it is important to get your gums checked by a dentist after you have given birth. While most types of gum problems caused by pregnancy hormones resolve after birth, a small number of women may have developed a deeper level of gum disease that will need treatment to resolve.
Vomiting can damage teeth
Pregnancy hormones soften the ring of muscle that keeps food inside the stomach. Gastric reflux (regurgitating food or drink) or the vomiting associated with morning sickness can coat your teeth with strong stomach acids. Repeated reflux and vomiting can damage tooth enamel and increase the risk of decay.
Don’t brush your teeth immediately after vomiting. While the teeth are covered in stomach acids, the vigorous action of the toothbrush may scratch the tooth enamel.Rinse your mouth thoroughly with plain tap water. Follow up with a fluoridated mouthwash. If you don’t have a fluoridated mouthwash, put a dab of fluoridated toothpaste on your finger and smear it over your teeth. Rinse thoroughly with water. Brush your teeth at least an hour after vomiting.
Retching while brushing teeth
Some pregnant women find that brushing their teeth, particularly the molars, provokes retching. However, you risk tooth decay if you don’t brush regularly. Suggestions include:
- Use a brush with a small head, such as a brush made for toddlers.
- Take your time. Slow down your brushing action.
- It may help to close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Try other distractions, such as listening to music.
If the taste of the toothpaste seems to provoke your gag reflex, switch to another brand. Alternatively, brush your teeth with water and follow up with a fluoridated mouthwash. Go back to brushing with fluoridated toothpaste as soon as you can.
Food cravings while pregnant
Some women experience unusual food cravings (and food avoidance) while they are pregnant. A regular desire for sugary snacks may increase your risk of tooth decay. Try to snack on low-sugar foods instead.
If nothing but sweetness will satisfy your craving, try to sometimes choose healthier options such as fresh fruits. Rinse your mouth with water or milk, or brush your teeth after having sugary snacks.
Increasing your calcium intake during pregnancy
You need to increase your daily amount of calcium during pregnancy. Sufficient calcium will protect your bone mass and meet the nutritional needs of your developing baby. Foods containing high quantities of calcium include but are not limited to milk, yogurt and cheese.
Why you need vitamin D during pregnancy
Your body needs vitamin D to maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorus, which help build your baby’s bones and teeth. A vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy can cause growth retardation and skeletal deformities. It may also have an impact on birth weight.
If you’re lacking vitamin D during pregnancy, your baby may be short on the vitamin at birth. This can put her at risk for rickets (which can lead to fractures and deformity), abnormal bone growth, and delayed physical development. And the results can be long lasting: Researchers believe that a vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy can affect bone development and immune function from birth through adulthood.
Things to remember
- The demands of pregnancy can lead to particular dental problems in some women.
- Estimates suggest that about 18 out of every 100 premature births may be triggered by periodontal disease, which is a chronic infection of the gums.
- You are less likely to have dental problems during pregnancy if you already have good oral hygiene habits. Awareness of the oral-health conditions you are likely to face at different stages of life can help you stay a step ahead of potential dental problems, and build a lifetime of healthy smiles.
Dental Health: Pregnancy and Children
Expectant mothers can give children a head start by eating different kinds of healthy foods and taking calcium supplements while pregnant. Also, taking folic-acid supplements can decrease the risk of a baby being born with a cleft lip and palate. After the baby’s birth, parents should wipe the infant’s gums with a soft, damp cloth after feedings, as this helps prevent the buildup of bacteria. When teeth come in, typically at six months old, parents can use a soft children’s toothbrush twice a day to clean the teeth and gum line, where decay starts.