You are pregnant! What amazing news! Congratulations! Enjoy the excitement and anticipation of your little one!
Besides the excitement and the anticipation for the baby, if precautions are not taken, pregnancy can be related to oral health problems including gum disease, an increased risk of tooth decay and enamel erosion. These problems are largely avoidable and preventable – you are less likely to have dental problems during pregnancy if you already have good oral hygiene habits. In the next few paragraphs we will give you a few tips that you may find useful to maintain healthy teeth and gums during pregnancy.
Pregnancy and Gums
Some women get swollen and sore gums which may bleed in pregnancy. Bleeding gums are caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make your gums more vulnerable to plaque by affecting your body’s response to plaque – leading to inflammation and bleeding. This is also called pregnancy gingivitis or gum disease (periodontitis). Gum swellings, known as pregnancy epulis, may appear during pregnancy. Epulis is a localised enlargement of the gum, which can bleed easily. This may require additional professional cleaning and, rarely, removal. Untreated gum disease during pregnancy has been linked to premature births and low birthweight. Keeping your gums healthy by daily effective plaque removal (meticulous tooth-brushing, flossing and use of interdental brushes), and frequent dental hygiene visits before, during and after pregnancy will reduce the above risks.
Pregnancy and Tooth Decay
Cravings are rather common amongst expecting mums. A desire for sugary snacks and frequent snacking in between meals will increase the chance of developing tooth decay. Try to snack on low-sugar foods instead and keep any sweet treats to mealtimes only. Be mindful of hidden sugars and added sugars in drinks, healthy snacks and sauces. At this point, it may be worth taking a look at our January 2016 Blog: ‘‘Watch out for the Hidden Sugars’’.
Fluoride-containing oral hygiene products have been shown to be effective in decreasing the risk of tooth decay and they are safe to be used by pregnant women on a daily basis. Brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste (1450ppm F–) is essential to keep your teeth protected from cavities. Remember to spit-out and don’t rinse your mouth after brushing. Some pregnant women find that brushing their teeth, provokes retching. To overcome the retching:
Pregnancy and Enamel Erosion
Many pregnant women suffer from morning sickness and vomiting. When you vomit, the gastric acid from your stomach enters your mouth. If you are vomiting or experiencing reflux on a regular basis, your teeth will be exposed to the strong stomach acids, which can cause dental erosion. To help minimise the risk of erosion and decay try the following:
Follow a healthy, balanced diet. Your baby’s first teeth begin to develop about three months into pregnancy. Healthy diet containing dairy products, cheese, and yogurt are a good source of calcium, vitamin D, other essential vitamins and minerals and are good for baby’s developing teeth, gums, and bones. Choose to have healthy nutritious snacks such as rice-crackers, vegetable and fruit rather than sugary or processed snacks.
Pregnancy and Dental Care
If you are planning to become pregnant, a thorough oral health assessment and provision of all the necessary dental care and advice will decrease the risk of any dental problems during pregnancy.
Nonetheless, don’t skip your dental check-up appointment simply because you are pregnant. Now more than any other time, regular periodontal (gum) exams are very important. Having frequent hygiene visits will ensure that your gums remain healthy throughout pregnancy. Following good oral hygiene practices like those mentioned above will prevent and/or reduce oral health problems. Routine dental care can be done any time during pregnancy. Any urgent procedure can be done, as well.
Tell your dentist if you are pregnant and inform them of any prescribed medication you may be taking. Discuss with your dentist whether any new or replacement fillings should be delayed until after your baby is born. The Department of Health advises that amalgam (silver) fillings shouldn’t be removed during pregnancy. If you need a dental X-ray, your dentist will usually wait until you’ve had the baby, even though most dental X-rays don’t affect the tummy (abdomen) or pelvic area.
Maintain good oral hygiene practices and regular dental visits to your dentist after you have had your baby to ensure that your gums and teeth remain healthy. Your dentist will be also able to give you advice on how to take care of your baby’s teeth and share healthy diet tips with you so that your baby will have healthy teeth for life!
At Dee Shapland Dental we encourage our registered parents to bring their toddlers in to meet us and we provide free examinations when seen with parents until the age of 5 years. We also encourage our parents see our Oral Health Educator for advice on diet, teeth cleaning and appropriate products for the child’s age and tooth development.
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This blog was written by Anastasios Plessas (Associate Dentist) – April 2016
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