Oral Care During Pregnancy: Why It Matters

Oral health can get messy during pregnancy due to hormonal changes, diet changes, and myths that keep you from visiting your dentist. Neglecting your oral health during this period can be dangerous for you and your newborn. In this article, we elaborate on how pregnancy affects oral health, your newborn's health, and what you can do to ensure good oral, and overall health, as you embark on this beautiful journey.

Key takeaways:

Pregnancy and oral health: Exploring the science

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Pregnancy brings about amazing changes in your body, but it's important to know that these changes can also affect your teeth and gums. Let's take a closer look.

  • Hormonal changes. During pregnancy, your body produces increased levels of hormones like progesterone and estrogen. While these hormones play a crucial role in your pregnancy journey, they can also put you at a higher risk for red, swollen, and bleeding gums, known as pregnancy gingivitis. Your gums can get irritated with the slightest of plaque deposits and cause pregnancy tumors.
  • Changes in eating habits. Pregnancy may bring some interesting cravings and changes in your eating habits. Expecting mothers tend to binge eat and crave sweets or sours frequently. If taken often, without maintaining oral hygiene, these can have a disastrous effect on your teeth in the long run.
  • Neglect in oral care. The new experience of being pregnant, the frequent bouts of vomiting in the morning, and mood swings can be a lot to take in for a mom-to-be. With all the focus on the baby, women tend to neglect their mouth hygiene the most at this time. Your daily oral care routine can fall behind before you realize it.
  • Changes in body immunity. Pregnancy can diminish your ability to fight against infections and germs. Under such circumstances, oral bacteria you are normally immune to can put you at risk of a serious infection.

These subtle changes can build up with time and trigger teeth cavities, gum infections, and loose teeth — eventually causing pain, discomfort, and unwanted complications. Interestingly, the effects do not end with you. They can affect your baby too.

Poor oral health during pregnancy can affect your baby

Research has revealed a concerning connection between poor oral health in pregnant women and its negative impact on the unborn child.

Gum infections and premature birth

Expectant mothers with severe gum infections or periodontitis face an increased risk of giving birth prematurely, before reaching the 37-week mark. Premature birth often leads to low-birth-weight babies, which can present various challenges for their growth and development.

Dental pain, inflammation, and preterm contractions

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Dental pain can be more than just an inconvenience during pregnancy. It can trigger premature contractions, particularly in the third trimester. Any oral inflammation carries the risk of spreading to the blood and the uterus, causing a high-risk pregnancy.

Cavities and future risks

Children whose mothers have high levels of untreated cavities or tooth loss are three times more prone to experience cavities during childhood. Bacteria responsible for causing cavities can be transmitted from the mother's mouth to the baby. These bacteria can cross the placenta and potentially affect the dental health of the little one.

Now that you know how poor oral health can create problems in your pregnancy, let's get down to what you can do to avoid it.

Oral health during pregnancy: dos and don'ts

When pregnant, you are in charge of your baby's health. Whatever you do or don't do can eventually have an impact on the little one. Here's a guide for pregnant moms, on the best practices to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy child.

Visit your dentist

Try to make an appointment with your dentist when you start planning a baby. This is the best time to get your oral cavity checked and go for any treatment as recommended by your dentist. If you missed out on a pre-pregnancy oral checkup, make it a point to visit your dentist as soon as you conceive — the earlier the better.

Follow your dentist's advice

Pregnancy is a sensitive phase. Your body and your baby can take in only selective therapies, be it medicine or dental treatment. So, inform your dentist that you are expecting, and take your dentist's advice very seriously. If you are in pain, the dentist can recommend you stick to acetaminophen. If you have swelling or infection from a rotten tooth, you might be kept on amoxicillin. It's not a good idea to purchase over-the-counter painkillers and antibiotics during pregnancy without consulting a healthcare provider.

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Communicate openly

If bad teeth run in your family, or you experience a major dental issue, don't hesitate to talk to your dentist or your obstetrician. It's OK to have silly questions on your mind, so don't shy away. Discuss your concerns with the experts and seek their advice.

Practice standard oral hygiene

Pregnancy can be a roller coaster ride. It's easy to become overwhelmed and neglect oral health. Brush your teeth twice daily, for 2 minutes. Floss regularly. If you have issues with the toothpaste flavor, you can switch to a bland one. You can have peculiar cravings during pregnancy, and it's common to indulge in quick snacks. Make sure to rinse your mouth every time you snack on something. Going that extra mile to take care of your teeth and gums can make all the difference.

Manage morning sickness

One out of 2 pregnant women suffer from morning sickness in the first 3 months. You can be one of them. If so, rinse your mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water after vomiting to get rid of any acids in the mouth. Talk to your doctor if it's severe.

Don't delay emergency dental treatments

Your dentist will differentiate the oral issues that need urgent therapy from the elective ones. All emergency oral treatments are done during the second trimester, while elective ones (that can wait till the delivery) are deferred. Your dentist will purposely avoid the first and third trimesters to ensure no unlikely outcomes.

Don't skip dental appointments

Even the smallest of symptoms can trigger unwanted health complications for your newborn. So stick to your dental visits as recommended, and follow the advice. Global authorities like the FDA and WHO support dental visits during pregnancy.

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The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) recommend that every pregnant woman undergo a thorough oral examination by a dentist at least once during her pregnancy.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recognizes that maintaining optimal oral health during pregnancy contributes to the well-being of both the mother and the baby, and encourages regular dental check-ups during pregnancy.

Visiting the dentist during pregnancy: What to expect

During your dental visit, it's crucial to communicate important information with your dentist. Here's a checklist of the things you need to tell your dentist during a visit.

  • Pregnancy. Start by letting your dentist know that you are pregnant. This information allows them to tailor their treatments and care specifically to your needs during this special time.
  • Health issues. Inform your dentist about any significant health issues you have, especially those that may have developed during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes.
  • Medications. Be sure to disclose any medications you are currently taking. This includes prenatal vitamins or supplements. Additionally, inform your dentist about any allergies you have, especially if you are allergic to a particular group of medicines.

Before going ahead with a comprehensive dental treatment plan, your dentist may ask and discuss with you specific questions and options, to ensure the best possible care for you and your baby. Here are a few common things you can expect:

  • Trimester. Your dentist will ask which trimester you are in. This will help him decide whether it's the best time to have therapy right away, or it can wait till delivery.
  • X-rays. If necessary, your dentist may recommend taking dental x-rays to evaluate your oral health thoroughly. Contrary to popular belief, dental x-rays are safe in pregnancy, when done with safety precautions.
  • Comfort. If a severely infected tooth needs to be removed, or a swelling needs to be drained your dentist will plan the treatment keeping your comfort in mind. The second trimester is the best time for emergency procedures due to the low risk of pregnancy loss and patient comfort.
  • Fillings. If a cavity needs to get filled, your dentist will recommend you have a mercury-free, teeth-colored resin filling.

Taking care of your oral health during pregnancy goes beyond just maintaining a beautiful smile. It holds the key to fostering a healthy environment for your baby's development while minimizing potential risks. By embracing a few essential steps, you can embark on a journey toward a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

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