Congratulations, you're pregnant! Your oral health is probably one of the last things you will be thinking about over the next 12 months. However, your oral health is very important to your health and to the health of your child!
Not only are studies showing that gum disease can affect your unborn baby, but your oral health and education will play an important role in the dental health of your child in the years to come.
How can being pregnant affect my oral health?
During pregnancy, increased levels of pregnancy hormones, namely Progesterone, can increase your risk of developing gingivitis (inflamed and bleeding gums) and periodontal disease (gum disease leading to bone loss). This hormonal imbalance is often referred to as 'Pregnancy Gingivitis', and can occur because the gums and oral tissues are more sensitive and susceptible to gingivitis-causing bacteria.
How do I know if I have pregnancy-gingivitis or gum disease?
Signs of gingivitis or gum disease include any of the following:
How does morning sickness affect my teeth?
Feeling sick and nauseous all day definitely can't be fun. Unfortunately, women who experience morning sickness with vomiting and/or acid reflux are at a higher risk of tooth decay.
This is because stomach acid has an extremely low pH (it is meant to dissolve your food after all).
The same acid can also wreak havoc on your teeth. Combined with cravings for chocolate and soft drinks over the course of 9-10 months, the teeth can easily become stained, damaged or affected with cavities.
Some simple ways to help reduce the risk of tooth decay in relation to vomiting and acid reflux are:
always rinsing your mouth out immediately with water or an alcohol-free mouth wash;
chewing sugar free gum to stimulate saliva that will help neutralize stomach acid;
smearing a bit of toothpaste over your teeth with your finger and then spitting out the excess during the day, after vomiting or in between meals;
waiting at least 30 minutes after vomiting before brushing your teeth to avoid damaging softened enamel surfaces.
How can Pregnancy-related gingivitis or Gum disease affect my unborn child?
Unfortunately, more and more recent studies are showing that gum disease is a risk factor for preterm-delivery and low-birth-weight babies. This is due to the potential for bacteria in the bloodstream travelling to the uterus and triggering the release of chemicals that may induce premature labor.
How can my oral health impact the oral health of my children?
A little known fact about a newborn baby's mouth is that it is essentially sterile. This means that decay causing bacteria is introduced to a child, and that the people closest to the child (usually their parents) are the ones that have the biggest impact on their children's dental health.
If you have generally poor oral hygiene, unattended decay and/or gum disease, the chances of this bacteria affecting your child are greater than if your mouth is in excellent condition. All the more reasons to keep up with your regular dental check ups and cleaning, and good oral hygiene habits at home!
What can I do while I am pregnant?
Visiting a dentist as normal even while pregnant is highly recommended for your own well being and that of your baby. Regular dental check-ups and cleaning are safe during any stage of pregnancy, although some procedures or medication should be avoided.
For any more involved non-emergency dental work (such as fillings), this is usually safest during the second trimester. Extractions, x-rays or major work is usually best reserved for after pregnancy, if possible.
If you are in pain or have an infection, this is classified as an emergency and it must be taken care of as soon as possible. Your dentist will work closely with your Obstetrician if necessary.
Remember the basics!
Eating well - Your growing baby’s calcium demands are high, so you should increase your own calcium consumption, as well as avoiding smoking or alcohol. Please follow the directions of your doctors closely.
Cleaning well - Continue brushing your teeth twice a day, morning and night for 2-3 minutes. Aim to floss your teeth at least once a day (before bed is the best time).
Stay hydrated - Drink lots of plain water, and try not to drink too many sugary drinks.
Remember to call us if you have any questions or concerns because having swollen, bleeding and sore gums is the last thing anyone wants while they are pregnant!
Wishing all of the current and prospective mums a safe and happy pregnancy.
Dr Richard Chee
and the team @ Gateway Dental Health