If you are expecting, congratulations on this exciting chapter of your life! There’s a LOT to think about and plan for, but don’t overlook your dental health while planning for your new arrival. There are most likely going to be some changes that affect your teeth and gums, so being prepared is important.
The American Dental Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics all encourage women to get dental care while pregnant. “It is a crucial period of time in a woman’s life and maintaining oral health is directly related to good overall health,” says Aharon Hagai, D.M.D.*
Here are some problems you could experience during pregnancy:
- Gingivitis: During pregnancy, some women experience issues with gingivitis, due to the increased levels of progesterone in the body. This, along with immune-system changes that occur in the body during pregnancy, can cause your gums to become red and swollen, or even bleed. Normally, pregnancy gingivitis goes away after the baby is born. However, if you notice these changes, you still should see your dentist. He may recommend more frequent cleanings until the condition improves.
- Periodontal disease: Some pregnant women experience more serious symptoms due to gum disease, which occurs when a bacterial infection develops below the gum line. But this doesn’t just affect the mother. Periodontal disease can also affect the baby’s health. Research has indicated that women with periodontal disease may be at risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as giving birth to pre-term or low-birth weight babies. So good oral hygiene habits and regular dental visits are very important during your pregnancy.
- Pregnancy granuloma. Pregnancy granulomas are small red nodules that form can on the gums, usually during the second trimester. This condition occurs in about 2% to 10% of pregnant women. They’re not dangerous, but can be uncomfortable. They usually go away after the baby is born, but have your dentist check them out for you.
- Tooth erosion. Unfortunately, pregnancy is more pleasant for some than others. In women with severe morning sickness, frequent vomiting can erode the enamel on the back of the front teeth. It’s important NOT to brush right after you are sick, though. The acid in your mouth will help erode your teeth as your brush. Instead, try rinsing with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with water to stop stomach acid from attacking your teeth, or a commercial rinse designed to reduce the acid level (pH) of your mouth.
- Dry mouth. Hormonal changes can cause dry mouth, which causes a decrease in saliva and increases the risk of dental problems. Try sugarless gum or candy to keep your mouth moist. These should contain xylitol, which reduces the harmful bacteria that cause cavities.
So what should you do to protect your health, and the health of your baby, while you’re pregnant?
- Be diligent. Make sure and practice excellent dental hygiene. Not only brush twice a day, make sure you spend at least 2 minutes each time you brush. And floss every day. In addition to your brushing and flossing routine, you may want to rinse every night with an over-the-counter anti-bacterial and fluoridated mouth rinse. Look for the ADA Seal on fluoride toothpastes, toothbrushes, floss, mouth rinses and other oral hygiene products. The ADA Seal lets you know the product has met ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness.
- Talk to your dentist. Usually, routine dental visits are totally safe, but let your dentist know what stage of pregnancy you are in. If you are on any special medications, or have any medical conditions affecting the pregnancy, share that too so you can come up with a plan for treatment together. The best time to see your dentist during pregnancy is the second trimester, so plan ahead.
- You are (both) what you eat. Your baby’s teeth will start to develop between the third and sixth months. So you need plenty of good nutrients, especially vitamins A, C, and D, protein, calcium, and phosphorous. While you may be craving Cheetos and Gummy Bears, it’s better to choose foods that are low in sugar and nutritious for you and your baby, such as raw fruits and vegetables, yogurt, or cheese.
For more helpful information, visit the American Dental Association’s “Mouth Healthy” campaign section on Pregnancy.