Many moms-to-be are not aware that prenatal dental care is an important part of your holistic prenatal health. Beyond wanting to maintain your pearly whites, good dental practices are especially essential during pregnancy to prevent long term oral issues for you and to ensure harmful bacteria that may build up in your mouth does not transfer to your baby.
During pregnancy hormones are surging. These additional hormones increase plaque and bacteria in the mouth and can lead to pregnancy gingivitis or periodontal gum disease. Gingivitis is the build-up of plaque that inflames the gums. It is sometimes a precursor for gum disease, but not always. Periodontal gum disease or periodontitis is a more serious condition in which bacteria from plaque infects the inner gum and bone, causing them to form pockets that collect and spread more bacteria and debris. Eventually, the bacteria itself and enzymes produced by the immune system to help break down bacterial toxins move deeper into gum tissue and bone and disrupt tooth stabilization. Tooth decay and loss can occur in severe cases of gum disease.
Women with gingivitis and periodontal gum disease have a higher risk of premature births and having a baby with a low birth weight. Due to this heightened risk, sensitivity and potential for extra bacteria-filled plaque, pregnant women should be very attentive to prenatal dental care. If you already practice good oral hygiene, you probably don’t have to do much more than you are already doing. Here are the best tips for keeping you and your baby safe from oral bacteria during pregnancy:
- Brush twice daily with toothpaste, preferably after meals.
- Floss your teeth once a day to avoid bacteria build-up between teeth.
- Use a sugar-free and alcohol-free mouth rinse daily.
- Ensure your teeth get fluoride from toothpaste, mouth wash and water. You may also need to apply fluoride gel occasionally.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals, especially calcium.
- While you may be eating a bit more and have some unusual cravings, do not consume excess sugar that can linger on your teeth and cause decay.
- Chewing gum with xylitol after meals helps eliminate plaque and strengthen teeth.
- If you experience pregnancy nausea that causes you to vomit, brush, rinse or coat your teeth with baking soda to neutralize acids afterwards.
It is important to maintain regular dental visits during pregnancy. Ideally you would have seen your dentist prior to getting pregnant and then again between your fourth and sixth month of pregnancy. Because the first trimester is the most critical stage of child development, exposure to x-rays, antibiotics and other potential dental procedures is not ideal early in pregnancy. Later in the third trimester, your bump will make it uncomfortable and unsafe to lie back in a dental chair for long periods of time. Therefore, the second trimester is the best time to see your dentist, if possible. However, never leave a dental issue unseen. While you may opt not to proceed with the recommended treatment until after your baby is born, you should always see a dentist to discuss your symptoms if you experience oral pain.
Be sure to let you dentist and dental hygienist know that you are pregnant prior to beginning any work during your visit. If you are having any sensitivity, irritation, bleeding or other issues, discuss them with your dentist. Prevention of gingivitis and gum disease is best, but early detection is second best. If you do have either of these problems, your dentist may want you to come in every three months for cleanings during pregnancy.
Make prenatal dental care part of your regular health routine during pregnancy. With just a few preventative measures, you can keep dangerous bacteria at bay and show off a gleaming smile to your bundle of joy when she arrives.