Women who are pregnant have an added consideration when it comes to their oral health. Not only do pregnancy hormones increase the likelihood of gum disease, but their oral health can also affect their developing baby. Having gum disease during this time (also known as pregnancy gingivitis) increases their chances of giving birth prematurely, resulting in low birthweight babies. This happens as gum disease impacts the fluids in the body which bring on labor.
With pregnancy gingivitis, harmful dental plaque accumulates on the teeth and irritates sensitive gum tissue. This is problematic because the increased hormone levels affect how the gums respond to the plaque buildup. If you see any of the following symptoms of gum disease, please see your dentist for prompt treatment: gums that are red, inflamed or bleeding. After childbirth, pregnancy gingivitis tends to improve on its own as hormones stabilize.
Women with poor oral hygiene also risk premature delivery, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and intrauterine growth restriction (due to oral infection). Additionally, pregnancy hormones (progesterone and estrogen) can cause the teeth to feel loose. This arises as these hormones loosen the bones and the ligaments holding the teeth in position. Fortunately, this condition most often goes away after childbirth as well.
Another oral health issue arises during pregnancy from morning sickness. This condition is most common during the first trimester and can strike any time of the day. Vomit in the mouth exposes the teeth to stomach acids which eat away at the teeth. To counteract this, rinse your mouth thoroughly with water, or a solution of 1 cup water with 1 tsp. baking soda, or diluted mouthwash and waiting 30 minutes before brushing the teeth. This will keep the stomach acids from damaging the teeth.
If you are planning a pregnancy, consider having a complete dental checkup beforehand to treat dental issues in advance of the pregnancy. Especially during the first trimester, it is preferable to avoid X-rays, anesthesia, pain medications, or antibiotics unless if possible.
According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, dental treatments such as fillings and crowns are safe to perform during pregnancy and help prevent possible oral infections. As the pregnancy progresses, sitting in a dental chair becomes increasingly uncomfortable. Cosmetic dental treatments such as teeth whitening should be delayed until after childbirth. If a dental emergency arises, work with your dentist to devise a plan for treatment protects both your health and your unborn child’s.
Limiting sweets devoid of nutrition and adhering to a balanced diet that is friendly to your teeth is a good idea now and while you are breastfeeding. Your oral health affects the oral development of your baby too so include protein, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, and D to support your baby’s developing teeth. Folic acid is also vital during pregnancy, as it lowers the risk of your baby pf developing neural tube defects.
Healthy food choices include cheese, yogurt, milk and lean protein, along with nutritious grains, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables for you and your growing baby. Staying well hydrated helps prevent dry mouth as healthy levels of saliva work to protect the gums, and drinking water with fluoride added will keep your teeth strong too.
Oral care during pregnancy is more important than ever. Brush at least twice a day and floss at least once daily, paying close attention to the gumline area. Throughout your pregnancy, maintain routine dental checkups and let your dental team know that you are pregnant. Your dental professionals can be a valuable asset to you and your baby’s health!