Between doctor’s appointments and hospital tours, not to mention all the changes happening in your own body, you might not have given much thought to how pregnancy will affect your dental health.
Expecting mothers do experience some dental-related side effects. Increased hormone production during pregnancy affects your body’s reaction to plaque, creating an elevated risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Don’t worry, with proper care, and a little help from your dentist, you can expect to easily stay on top of these symptoms and maintain a healthy mouth while expecting.
We’re here to outline what you need to know about the link between a healthy smile and a happy, healthy baby!
Talk with Your Dentist
Always tell your dentist if you think you might be pregnant and let them know how far along you are. While your dentist is an expert in caring for you during pregnancy, information from your doctor can be crucial to their ability to do so. Always disclose any medications you are taking and special instructions from your doctor. If your pregnancy is considered high-risk your dentist may recommend delaying certain treatments or procedures.
Start with Good Dental Hygiene Habits
The best way to avoid dental issues is to begin pregnancy with excellent oral health. If you have become rather lax about your dental care start getting into healthy habits now by at least brushing twice a day and flossing regularly.
If you plan to become pregnant it is also a good idea to schedule a visit with the dentist so they can address any issues beforehand. While most dental issues can be treated during pregnancy, it’s a good idea to undergo all elective procedures before becoming pregnant or after delivery.
Managing Nausea & Vomiting
The first trimester is a beautiful time full of excitement, hope for the future, and…morning sickness. As if all the nausea and vomiting isn’t bad enough, morning sickness can negatively affect your dental health. Repeated exposure to corrosive stomach acid breaks down the enamel coating on your teeth. If you suffer from regular bouts of morning sickness, consider these tips:
- Don’t brush immediately after vomiting. This might be counterintuitive, but brushing will only increase the acid’s contact with your teeth.
- Aim to neutralize acid right away by gargling water and waiting about 30 minutes before picking up a toothbrush.
- Chew a minty gum to relieve nausea. Choose a brand reinforced with Xylitol. Xylitol has been shown to repair damaged enamel, so you can get ahead of that corrosive stomach acid!
- Anything that helps manage nausea and reduce vomiting will help protect your teeth.
Additionally, some women find brushing their teeth causes vomiting during the early months of pregnancy. Despite the nausea, it is very important to keep up with regular brushing habits or else you risk tooth decay. Try these tips to get those pearly whites glistening even when you’re not feeling so hot yourself:
- Slow down and take your time while brushing. It may help to close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing.
- Use a smaller brush head—try toddler toothbrushes.
- If the paste itself triggers your nausea, try switching brands. Cinnamon or clove flavored pastes may be more palatable.
- If you absolutely can’t stomach toothpaste, try brushing with water and a fluoridated mouthwash. Return to normal brushing habits as soon as possible.
Hormonal changes cause many women to experience bleeding or swollen gums during pregnancy, often referred to as pregnancy gingivitis. This is caused by an increased sensitivity to plaque (the germs that normally collect on our teeth) and not an actual increase in the amount of plaque itself.
Increased risk of pregnancy gingivitis most often occurs in the second trimester. Mild bleeding or swelling of the gums is normal and not usually something to worry about. However, it is important to continue with regular brushing and flossing habits so symptoms do not progress.
Due to the increased sensitivity to plaque during pregnancy, it is more important than ever to continue with regular dental cleanings. If left unchecked, pregnancy gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a more severe gum disease that has been linked to low birth weight and premature birth. Rest assured, with good habits and regular dental cleanings you should have nothing to worry about!
Dental X-rays are perfectly safe for expecting mothers, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Radiation from dental X-rays is extremely low and your hygienist will use a leaded apron to minimize exposure of your abdomen. It is common, however, for your regular doctor to request holding off on X-rays until the second trimester.
If you feel uncomfortable with routine x-rays it is perfectly acceptable to avoid them until after delivery. However, certain dental emergencies may require X-rays before being diagnosed or treated.
Schedule a Visit
Expecting mothers do experience an increased sensitivity to plaque and germs that, unchecked, can lead to larger problems. An increased risk of gum disease and tooth decay means that it is more important than ever to maintain oral hygiene during this time. With proper care and regular trips to your dentist you can expect to enjoy excellent oral health during your entire pregnancy. Schedule a visit with your dentist to discuss your dental health today!