Swollen, bleeding gums? Sensitive teeth? Pregnancy can cause all manner of problems for your teeth which is why it’s essential to stick to a thorough oral health care routine.
Oral health care in pregnancy
Taking care of your oral health is crucial during your pregnancy. All that progesterone and oestrogen swimming around your body can cause gums to soften and bleed leaving you more susceptible to gum disease, sensitivity and other tooth problems.
During pregnancy your blood flow increases by 30-50%, which explains those radiant rosy cheeks but also explains the increased blood flow to your gums that can cause gum problems. In the UK half of all pregnant woman suffer from pregnancy gingivitis (combined gum disease and sensitivity) which left untreated could effect both mother and baby.
Why is dental health during pregnancy important?
It is important to take care of your dental health during pregnancy for the following reasons:
- Taking good care of yourself and your dental health during pregnancy supports the development and dental health of your baby. Your baby’s mouth and teeth begin to form during the first few weeks of pregnancy.
- Hormonal changes occur during pregnancy that can affect your gums. Bacteria along your gum line can cause your gums to become swollen and inflamed.
- Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in your mouth and may be passed to your child through saliva.
- Research shows there may be a link between oral disease and other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease or pre-term and low-birth-weight babies.
How can I keep my teeth and gums healthy?
Your teeth can be affected by what you eat, how often you eat, and how long the food stays in your mouth or on your teeth. To keep your teeth and gums healthy:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Clean carefully along the gum line.
- Floss your teeth every day.
- When you are thirsty drink water between meals.
- Rinse your mouth with water after snacks.
- Eat healthy foods and limit foods that are sweet or stick to your teeth.
- Do not smoke or drink alcohol during pregnancy.
Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy can leave stomach acids in your mouth. Do not brush your teeth for 30 minutes after vomiting. The stomach acid combined with brushing may erode your tooth enamel. Rinse your mouth with water, or use a fluoride mouth rinse to freshen your mouth and protect your teeth.
Should I see a dentist while I am pregnant?
Regular dental cleanings and check-ups are safe at any time during pregnancy. Tell your dentist or dental hygienist that you are pregnant.
If you have healthy teeth, you will have less tooth decay or bacteria and lower the risk of passing the bacteria to your baby.
Any pain, swelling or infection in your mouth should be treated right away. This can affect your health and your baby’s health.
Are x-rays, local anesthetics and medications safe?
Dental x-rays and local anesthetics for dental treatment can be safely provided during pregnancy. If x-rays are required, the lead apron used at the dental office will shield you and your baby.
Some medications may not be safe to use during pregnancy. If you need emergency dental care, certain drugs may be required. Check with your pharmacist, dentist and/or health care provider to see whether a medication is safe during pregnancy.
- Drinking milk during pregnancy is a great way to ensure you get the recommended intake of calcium, but sadly there is no evidence to suggest your baby will have perfectly healthy teeth as a result.
- We’ve all heard that old saying ‘you lose a tooth for every child’! It originated years ago when oral health and nutrition wasn’t quite up to the standard it is today so pregnant women were more susceptible to gum disease and problematic teeth. As long as you care for your teeth properly and eat a well balanced diet, there’s no reason why you should lose any teeth.
- The taste and quality of breast milk is not affected by dental treatments, despite what some choose to believe!
- Taking fluoride supplements during pregnancy will have little impact on your growing baby as they are unlikely to cross the placenta
Fillings and dental treatment in pregnancy
If you haven’t visited the dentist for a while, now is the time! Not only will they be able to assess the condition of your teeth, but you can also visit the hygienist for a thorough clean and get some useful oral health tips which you can apply throughout pregnancy. If you need a filling or two, your dentist will decide on the best course of treatment – taking into consideration your stage of pregnancy.
Although there is no evidence to suggest mercury fillings are a health risk to pregnant women, they are generally avoided (where possible) until after the birth.