As you already know, your lifestyle and habits during pregnancy can affect your health as well as the health of your unborn baby. With all the things you need to be prepared for, your oral health may not exactly be top-of-mind. But maintaining the health of your teeth and gums is necessary to avoid the risk of developing pregnancy gingivitis and to establish good oral health long-term.
Oral Health During Pregnancy
Following a consistent oral health care routine is especially important for pregnant women for several reasons.
Pregnancy changes the hormones in the body that put pregnant women at increased risk for periodontal disease, which is the most severe form of gum disease. This is why pregnant women, or women who are considering pregnancy, should see a dentist for regular checkups to catch any potential oral care problems before they become severe.
Frequent Eating: During pregnancy, women are likely to eat and drink more frequently throughout the day. And with the more frequent sugar intake comes an increased risk for cavities, so it’s especially important to stick with a sound tooth brushing and flossing routine.
Hormonal Changes: Some women may be more likely to develop red, puffy gums during pregnancy because the additional amount of the hormone progesterone in the body causes a strong reaction to normal amounts of plaque. If your gums are especially sensitive, try a soft floss that slides easily and comfortably between teeth or a specialty interdental cleaning tool.
Dental During Pregnancy
The first trimester of your pregnancy (the first 13 weeks) is the time in which most of the baby’s major organs develop. Although some pregnant women may have a dental emergency that requires a dental x-ray, taking good care of your teeth during pregnancy reduces the odds that you will need dental x-rays, and you can avoid exposing your baby to radiation. But if you do need x-rays, don’t panic. Your dental professional will minimize your exposure by having you wear a leaded apron and leaded band around your neck to protect your thyroid.
For women who are pregnant or think they might be pregnant: Tell your dental professional so you can avoid unnecessary X-rays and so that you can be as well protected as possible if dental x-rays are essential. But a regular dental checkup and cleaning is safe during pregnancy. In fact, regular dental checkups are recommended in order to help manage plaque buildup and to identify and treat mild cases of tooth decay or gingivitis before they become severe.
Maintaining Proper Nutrition for Pregnancy
Your teeth are made of minerals similar to bone, and the calcium you take in aids in bone development in your baby. The right amount of calcium will help keep your bones strong and contribute to the development of strong teeth and bones in your baby.
Of course, proper nutrition is part of good dental hygiene, and pregnant women in particular should be sure to eat a variety of healthy foods and get plenty of calcium, phosphorous, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin C.
Contrary to a popular myth, you won’t lose calcium from your teeth during pregnancy if you aren’t getting enough calcium in your diet. A growing baby will take calcium from a mother’s bones, not her teeth. But that’s all the more reason to eat healthy while following a strict routine of good oral care.
Pregnancy and Medications
Some antibiotics and pain medications are okay to take during pregnancy and may be necessary. However, one group of antibiotics, tetracycline and related antibiotics may cause hypoplasia (underdevelopment) of tooth enamel and/or discoloration of the permanent teeth in children. Be sure to tell your doctor you’re pregnant if he or she prescribes this medication for you.
Preparing for Morning Sickness Symptoms
Morning sickness is nausea and vomiting that often occurs during pregnancy. It can happen at any time of day. If you suffer from morning sickness, having your own emergency travel bag is a good plan. In a small, sturdy bag, pack the following:
Opaque plastic bags without holes (Plastic grocery bags are a good choice)
Wet wipes, tissues or napkins to wipe your face and mouth
A small bottle of water to rinse your teeth and mouth
A travel-sized mouthwash, toothpaste and toothbrush to brush away stomach acids
Breath spray or mints
Dealing with Oral Health Pregnancy Changes
Dysgeusia and Ptyalism
During pregnancy, you may experience symptoms of dysgeusia (changing tastebuds or a bad taste in your mouth) or ptyalism (too much saliva). To help cope with a bad taste in your mouth:
Brush often, and gargle with a mixture of baking soda and water (1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in one cup of water) to help neutralize pH levels
Add lemon to water, drink lemonade or suck on citrus drops
Use plastic dinnerware and utensils to help decrease metallic taste
To help cope with an increase in saliva, drink plenty of fluid to increase swallowing. Sucking on candies may also offer relief.
During pregnancy, 50 to 70 percent of all women experience a condition called pregnancy gingivitis. This is why it's vital to pay more careful attention to your daily brushing and flossing routine to keep plaque under control. Here’s how:
Use a rechargeable electric toothbrush. Many remove more plaque than regular manual toothbrushes, and by investing in one, you can begin to take the steps to reduce the amount of plaque in your mouth and help prevent and reverse gingivitis.
Brush with an anti-gingivitis toothpaste. Be sure to read packaging carefully to make sure the toothpaste contains gingivitis-fighting ingredients.
Floss regularly. Even if gingivitis causes your gums to swell and bleed, but you still need to floss. By flossing daily, you can eliminate more plaque than brushing alone and help reduce your risk of developing pregnancy gingivitis.
Rinse with anti-gingivitis mouthwash. Rinsing with an alcohol-free, anti-gingivitis mouthwash is the final step to killing germs and improving your oral hygiene during pregnancy.
Questions Related to Pregnancy and Oral Health
Q: Is Fluoride Safe During Pregnancy
While many prenatal vitamins contain fluoride, the value of fluoride and fluoride supplementation in pregnant women is unclear, and not everyone agrees on it. Be sure to consult your doctor if you're curious about it.