How to Take Care of Your Oral Health During Pregnancy
With the many changes that a woman’s body goes through over the course of her pregnancy, prioritizing oral health can fall to the wayside. What most don’t seem to be aware of is that the hormonal changes caused by pregnancy can also affect a woman’s teeth and gums, leading to cavities, pregnancy gingivitis, and gum disease, among other conditions.
It’s not just your oral health that can be affected, however. Studies show that most infants and young children acquire the bacteria that cause cavities from their mothers. The good news is that there are measures that you can take in order to maintain good oral health throughout your pregnancy. Here are some of them:
As much as possible, avoid foods and beverages that are high in sugar. Yes, we understand that pregnancy cravings are hard to fight, so eat sweets in moderation. Say no to that cookie or slice of cake, and pick up a slice of fresh fruit instead when you’re hungry for a snack. Also, drink plenty of water or milk in place of soda or other flavored drinks.
Practice good oral hygiene
The rules for practicing good oral hygiene while you’re pregnant are the same as the rules for when you aren’t. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and replace your toothbrush every 3 or 4 months, or whenever you notice fraying in its bristles. Daily flossing is also a must to get all of that nasty stuff out from the spaces between your teeth.
If morning sickness is preventing you from brushing your teeth, ask your dentist if they have any suggestions for bland-tasting toothpaste brands that you can use in the meantime. It’s also recommended that you rinse with mouthwash if you suffer from frequent vomiting throughout the day.
Quit smoking and drinking
Laying off smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy is not only good for the health of your child, but it’s also beneficial to your oral health. Smoking, in particular, causes inflammation of the salivary glands and promotes the formation of plaque and tartar on the teeth’s surface. It also increases your risk of developing oral health conditions like periodontal disease, leukoplakia, and even oral cancer.
Regular alcohol consumption is also bad for your oral health. Heavy drinkers most commonly complain about alcohol staining their teeth, but alcoholic beverages do more damage by exposing your teeth to acids that compromise the strength of your teeth’s enamel. Additionally, it can also dry up your mouth. The resulting dehydration of your salivary glands can limit your mouth’s ability to wash away bacteria and plaque from your teeth’s surface, increasing your risk of developing cavities and gum disease.
Don’t skip your dental appointments
Your appointments with the dentist are just as important as your prenatal appointments. Routine dental care can be done at any time during your pregnancy. Even dental X-rays and urgent critical procedures that require local anesthesia can be performed as well. Technology has advanced enough that even X-rays can be done without posing any risks to you and the baby that’s growing inside you.
Nevertheless, your dentist needs to know that you are pregnant and when your expected due date is. They may also want a list of all the prenatal vitamins and medications you’ve been taking as well as any relevant advice you’ve been given by your physician. This information can help them develop the right dental treatment plan for you.
You should see a dental health professional or periodontist immediately if you notice any swelling, tenderness or bleeding in your gums. This can be the first sign of periodontal or gum disease, and you’ll want it treated appropriately.
The saying that pregnant women lose a tooth for every child they birth is a myth! If you practice good dental hygiene habits and maintain good oral health, there’s no reason for you to lose a tooth or develop cavities during your pregnancy. It is advised that you visit a dental health professional at least twice during your pregnancy: once within the first three months, and again just before you’re due to deliver.
This is a guest post by Dr. Douglas Kim of First Dental Care, a trusted dentist in Anaheim and surrounding areas. Dr. Kim is passionate about educating patients on how to maintain good oral health. Outside of the office, Dr. Kim enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife and their 2 adorable sons.