Dental Health Guide for Pregnancy
Did you know that pregnancy can affect your dental health? The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy impact every system in your body, including your gums and teeth. Some of these changes may put you at higher risk for experiencing oral disease from periodontitis to tooth decay. Keeping up with your daily oral hygiene routine (using proper techniques to brush and floss your teeth) is more important now than ever. Here are some additional tips for preserving your dental health during pregnancy.
Oral Health Impact from Morning Sickness
Many women experience frequent episodes of vomiting during the first trimester. The acids that are contained in bile are highly corrosive to dental enamel. As enamel erodes, you are at higher risk for cavities. You may wish to speak with your health care provider about ways to safely reduce vomiting (dietary changes, medication, etc). If you do throw up, rinse your mouth out immediately with water or a mouth wash. This keeps the acid from remaining in contact with your teeth for too long.
If the taste of toothpaste makes you gag, you may wish to change brands or use a neutral-tasting product like baking soda for brushing your teeth. Fluoridated toothpaste are more likely to reduce your risk of developing cavities; but continuing to faithfully brush twice a day and floss once a day is a more critical factor than what toothpaste you use when it comes to reducing plaque and tartar buildup.
Gum Disease and Pregnancy
Progesterone levels during pregnancy have a tendency to make gums more sensitive to tartar along the gum line. This leads to an increased risk of gingivitis during pregnancy. You may notice that your gums are swollen and red. They may also bleed easily and your teeth may feel slightly loose. Mild gingivitis can usually be treated easily with proper dental hygiene at home and with regular dental cleanings.
However, periodontitis (the next stage of gum disease) may cause problems both for you and your baby. Since existing periodontitis may get rapidly worse during pregnancy, your risk for losing teeth to this disease may also increase. There is some evidence that women with periodontitis have a greater chance of giving birth prematurely and/or having babies with a lower birth weight.
Eating a healthy diet and avoiding too much sugary and starchy food that contributes to bacterial overgrowth and plaque buildup can help promote gum and dental health during pregnancy. A diet high in nutrients such as protein and minerals like calcium can also help your baby’s teeth develop properly during gestation (this process starts at around three months into the pregnancy).
Some women experience overgrowth of gum tissue (sometimes referred to as gum tumors) during pregnancy. This is likely caused by a combination of hormonal changes and irritation from tartar. These tumors are not dangerous and can be surgically removed after you give birth.
Dental Care for Pregnant Women
Having your teeth cleaned is generally considered safe during pregnancy, although you may wish to schedule your appointment for the second trimester or early third trimester. At this time, many of the most critical aspects of your baby’s development are complete but you aren’t yet nearing your birthing time. Your dentist will skip the x-rays during your visit and just perform a cleaning to ensure your continued dental health during pregnancy. The safety of nitrous oxide use during dental treatment for pregnant women is debatable. Some dentists won’t use it at all while others use it sparingly in the second trimester. If you generally request N2O for conscious sedation during cleanings, you may wish to explore natural alternatives such as hypnosis to cope with dental anxiety.
In general, non-emergency dental work such as restorations and all elective (cosmetic) dental procedures should be postponed until after the pregnancy. In the event of a dental emergency such as a tooth abscess requiring a root canal, your dentist will take appropriate precautions to prevent fetal exposure to x-rays. You will need to inform your dentist of how far along you are, any health issues you have, any loss of prior pregnancies, and any medications and over-the-counter supplements you are taking. Your dentist will use this information to develop a treatment plan that uses the safest possible techniques and medications to ease your discomfort and prevent infection during and after emergency dental treatment.