With a baby on the way or just born, the last thing you have time to think about is your teeth. Cravings are out of control, none of your clothes fit, and your body is in the middle of one of the biggest changes it will ever go through.
However, if you do not practice good dental health during and after your pregnancy, there could be long-term consequences for you and your baby. With just a few extra steps, you can make sure that dental health is the last of your worries during this important time in your life.
The Myths About Mother’s Dental Health
There are some misconceptions out there related to pregnancy and oral care. One is that it’s not safe for pregnant women to go to the dentist because of X-rays and other procedures that could be harmful to the baby. That is absolutely not the case. In fact, the National Institutes of Health have done studies suggesting just the opposite.
At a minimum, you should continue with routine dentist appointments while pregnant. It’s also a good idea to visit your dentist if you are planning to become pregnant or shortly after you become pregnant. That visit can help set the course to ensure that your teeth and gums remain healthy throughout your pregnancy.
Another myth is that teeth lose massive amounts of calcium during pregnancy because it’s being moved elsewhere in the body to support the growing baby. Again, that is not true. Rather, most dental changes that happen during pregnancy are caused by hormone changes in the body.
That said, it is important to increase your calcium intake during pregnancy to ensure that your body has enough calcium to support your baby’s development, especially in the third trimester. Prenatal vitamins typically contain calcium and other important nutrients like Vitamin D. Your obstetrician will advise if any additional supplements or dietary changes are needed during your pregnancy.
Oral Health Risks
High levels of the hormone progesterone creates more acid in the mouth during pregnancy, which can lead to gingivitis. Symptoms include red, swollen gums that bleed during brushing or flossing.
It’s important to see your dentist as soon as you notice any of these symptoms; if left untreated gingivitis can become a serious gum disease called periodontitis. The increased acid in your mouth can also travel to your baby, which increases the risk for premature birth and low birth weight.
Tooth decay is another risk during pregnancy, especially if you suffer from morning sickness. Acid in your mouth breaks down tooth enamel when you vomit. If you throw up often as a result of morning sickness, the level of acid in your mouth increases, as does the risk for tooth decay. Serious tooth decay can lead to cavities or even tooth loss.
The risk of dental problems does not go away entirely once the baby is born. Breastfeeding moms are at a higher risk for tooth decay if they don’t stay hydrated or slack on brushing and flossing.
Nursing moms also lose as up to 5 percent of their bone mass as their growing babies demand more calcium. This can lead to periodontal disease or gingivitis, both gum infections that can damage the gums and cause bone loss around the jaw. In order to prevent this, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet throughout your time breastfeeding, including lots of calcium and vitamin D.
The American Dental Association also reports an increase in teeth grinding among moms who suffer from neck and facial tension as a result of breastfeeding.
Treatment and Prevention
The best way to prevent issues like these is to step up your daily dental routine and stick with it during and after your pregnancy. Commit to thoroughly brushing your teeth twice per day and thoroughly flossing once per day. Use a bacteria-killing mouthwash after brushing or between meals if you do not have a chance to brush.
Make sure to drink lots of water to combat dry mouth (another cause of dental problems) and stick to a diet that’s low in sugar and starch. If the craving for sugar or carbs does strike, try to brush your teeth as soon as possible after eating those foods.
Routine dental procedures like cleanings, cavity fillings and X-rays are safe to be performed during pregnancy. Sitting in a dentist’s chair becomes more uncomfortable as you get farther into your pregnancy, so try to schedule these procedures during the second trimester if possible.
At Dr Donan, dentist in Fresno CA, we are committed to working with all of our new and expecting moms to provide the best dental care possible throughout pregnancy.
No matter how crazy things get during your pregnancy or in the months after your baby is born, don’t forget to take time out for yourself and your health. This applies to not just to your oral health, but your overall well being. Your body and your mind will thank you in the long run, and you’ll be at your best to take care of your new baby.