Written by: Dr. Amanda Tavoularis
When you become pregnant, it can be a busy nine months preparing for the arrival of a new little one. Purchasing all the necessary baby supplies, coming up with a birth plan, visiting your OBGYN, and the list goes on. One thing that expecting mothers may not think about during this time is their dental health. However, good dental health during pregnancy is essential to carry your baby safely to term. I have been working with pregnant women and their dental health for over 20 years and have compiled a list of information so other mothers know the importance of their dental health during pregnancy and how to have good oral hygiene.
Going to the Dentist While Expecting
One question that pregnant women often have is if they should visit their dentist during their pregnancy, and how often. It’s recommended that adults visit the dentist once every 6 months, or twice a year, to have routine cleanings and x-rays. If you are due for a dental checkup during your pregnancy, it’s important not to skip it. Dental cleanings and x-rays are safe for both you and your baby, just be sure to let your dentist know that you are expecting and they will be more than happy to accommodate you.
If you aren’t scheduled for a regular dental visit during your pregnancy, try to schedule one with your dentist. There are some dental risk factors during pregnancy that we will talk about in the next section, so it’s important to receive a dental exam to make sure you aren’t suffering from any oral issues. Visiting the dentist will help prevent and treat any dental problems as well.
Dental Risk Factors While Pregnant
The biggest risk to dental health during pregnancy and the most serious is gum disease. Because of rapidly changing hormones that a woman experiences, gingivitis-causing bacteria have a better chance of growing in a woman’s mouth causing dental issues. Gum disease is serious because it can have adverse effects on a woman’s pregnancy, such as premature birth and low birth weight. About 18 out of 100 premature births are caused by gum disease, but it is treatable. This is why it’s important to visit your dentist during pregnancy. Your dentist will be able to give you a deep cleaning to remove plaque and other bacteria, as well as prescribe antibiotics to help combat the disease.
Pregnant women may also be at risk of tooth decay from food cravings and morning sickness. It’s normal for women to experience some amount of cravings during their pregnancy, and this can sometimes lead to indulging in food and drinks high in sugar content. While it’s okay to eat sweet treats in moderation, it’s important that this doesn’t become a habit and that you always brush your teeth afterward.
Morning sickness is one of the common side effects of pregnancy and causes many women to vomit at some point throughout the day. This can put women at risk for tooth decay as well. If you do experience morning sickness, you may want to grab your toothbrush right away. However, there may be stomach acid left in your mouth so it’s best to rinse your mouth with baking soda and water to help neutralize this acid before brushing.
How Your Diet During Pregnancy Affects Dental Health
Your diet during your pregnancy can play a big role in your dental health, too. As mentioned, indulging in food and drinks that are high in sugar can put you at a higher risk for tooth decay. However, sugar isn’t the only thing that can affect your oral health.
Pregnant women should aim for having a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients to not only help with the development of their baby but to help protect your bone mass in your mouth and teeth. Expecting mothers should increase their calcium intake during pregnancy to help with this. Foods such as milk, cheese, unsweetened yogurt, and cottage cheese are great sources of calcium that can be eaten as is or mixed in with other foods. Vitamin D is another important vitamin that helps the body utilize calcium. Sources of vitamin D include cheese, fatty fish like salmon, and eggs. Try adding some of these foods to your favorite recipes to help your teeth and bones stay strong throughout pregnancy.
Having a baby is undoubtedly an extremely exciting part of life. With doctor’s appointments, hospital tours, trips to the baby store, and more, it can be easy to forget about your dental health. However, good oral hygiene is essential to your overall health and is important when it comes to safely carrying your baby to term. Knowing the risks, visiting your dentist, and watching your diet can all help you prioritize your dental health during this time to keep you and your growing baby happy and healthy.
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