Oral health and pregnancy
Visiting the dentist
If you’re planning on becoming pregnant, it’s important to visit your dentist and have a routine dental check-up beforehand.
If you are already pregnant, don’t avoid visiting the dentist. It’s important to check that your teeth and gums are healthy. Routine dental treatment can be done safely during your pregnancy, but be sure to advise your dentist that you are pregnant when you make the appointment. It is likely that your dentist will recommend a dental check-up during your second trimester because morning sickness will have subsided by then.
It’s not unusual to experience food cravings and even a few food aversions when you’re pregnant. If you’re craving sugary snacks, you may increase the risk of tooth decay. Try, as often as possible, to snack on low sugar foods. If only sweet snacks will satisfy your cravings, try to choose some healthier options like fresh fruit and even yogurts.
Ideally, you should consume your snacks as close as possible to meal times and brush your teeth after each meal. If you consume sweet snacks outside of meal times, try to rinse your mouth by drinking water or milk, which can help wash away decay causing sugars from your teeth.
Morning sickness and acid reflux
Most pregnant women will experience some form of morning sickness during their pregnancy. Looking after your teeth might be the last thing on your mind while in the midst of morning sickness, but doing so can help prevent long term problems with your teeth.
If you are vomiting or experiencing acid reflux on a regular basis, your teeth will be exposed to strong stomach acids, which can cause dental erosion.
Minimise the risk of erosion and tooth decay by trying the following:
- Wait at least an hour after vomiting before brushing your teeth. Strong stomach acids can soften your tooth enamel and the vigorous action could scratch the tooth enamel and lead to further damage.
- Rinse your mouth with water (preferably fluoridated tap water) after vomiting. This will assist in removing most of the acids.
- Lightly smear fluoride toothpaste on your teeth. Alternatively, rinse with an alcohol-free fluoride mouthwash to provide extra protection against harmful stomach acids.
- Ask your dentist for further information and individualised advice.
Gagging while brushing teeth
If you find that brushing your teeth causes you to gag, try the following:
- Try a different flavour of fluoridated toothpaste.
- Use a toothbrush with a smaller head. A toothbrush for toddlers, for instance.
- Slow down your brushing action.
- Try closing your eyes while you brush and concentrate on your breathing.
You influence your baby’s chances of dental decay
Research has found that the state of a mother’s oral health can have a direct influence on the future oral health of her child.
You are the most influential role model in the development of your child’s good oral health behaviours. Make sure you maintain your own good oral health to reduce the risk of dental decay in your child.
Gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis
During pregnancy, your gums can become more sensitive to bacterial irritation and inflammation. This is because increased levels of hormones can exaggerate the manner in which your gums react to the bacterial irritants found in plaque.
Inflammation affecting your gums is called Gingivitis. Signs of this can include redness, swelling of the gums and bleeding- particularly during brushing and flossing your teeth. Gingivitis is more likely to occur during the second trimester and can usually be treated with frequent brushing and flossing.
Infection of the deeper gum tissue around the tooth is known as periodontitis. If periodontitis develops, your gums and teeth will be left with permanent damage and you may even suffer tooth loss.
Pregnancy may exacerbate periodontitis. There is also a link between periodontitis, premature birth and low birth weight babies.
It is essential to practise good oral hygiene before, during and after pregnancy.
Visit your dentist regularly for individualised advice on the matter.
For healthy teeth, remember to:
- Brush twice daily with fluoridated toothpastes.
- Floss you teeth daily.
- Have regular dental check-ups, especially while you are pregnant.
- Follow a healthy eating plan and reduce your intake of sugary foods and drinks.
- Drink plenty of clean tap water.