Pregnancy is a busy time for moms-to-be. In between trips to your obstetrician and decorating the nursery don’t let your dental check-ups fall off your to-do list. Regular cleanings and dental exams become even more critical once you are pregnant because your oral health can impact your overall health and the health of your baby.
How dental health impacts your pregnancy
Preventative check-ups are essential during pregnancy, especially if you are struggling to keep up with your oral hygiene regimen at home due to morning sickness and a more sensitive gag reflex.
Infections in the mother, such as tooth decay and gum disease, can also pose a risk to your baby’s health.
In fact, studies have shown a link between gum disease and premature births or underweight babies. More research is required to confirm the link, but it is thought gum disease leads to an increase in oral fluids which may induce early labor.
Oral health problems that develop during pregnancy
Several oral health issues may develop or worsen throughout your pregnancy. Continuing with or increasing your dental visits can alleviate many of these problems and allow you and your dentist to work together to treat any concerns early.
The increased hormone levels during pregnancy can lead to an escalation in plaque levels and is called pregnancy gingivitis. When plaque builds up around your teeth and gumline, it causes your gums to become inflamed, tender and even bleed. If left untreated, gingivitis often results in tooth decay or loss.
Fortunately, regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups can help you manage this condition.
Iron supplements help to support your growing baby. However, these supplements can also cause dark spots on your teeth. Instead, drink the liquid form through a straw or mix it with water or fruit juice. This helps keep the supplement from getting on your teeth. Another option is to simply take it as a pill.
Chlorhexidine mouthwash is typically prescribed to treat gum disease but can cause brown stains. Avoid consuming other dark foods and beverages while using this mouthwash.
The antibiotic Tetracycline is known to affect both the mother’s and developing baby’s teeth. When taken during pregnancy, Tetracycline can calcify the baby’s developing teeth causing dark grey or brown stains when their teeth erupt.
Dysgeusia is a state of impaired taste, and some pregnant women experience a metallic taste during pregnancy. The condition is temporary and is linked to changing hormones and water retention which affect your taste buds.
You may find it helpful to chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless sweets to help with any metallic aftertaste you are experiencing. If you like spicy foods, the spiciness often offsets the metallic taste.
Ptyalism is excessive production of saliva or hypersalivation. This condition is common in women experiencing severe morning sickness.
While the links between pregnancy and ptyalism are still unclear, there are several things you can do to ease any discomfort. For starters, regularly sipping on water, eating a balanced diet, and reducing meal size can help a lot. Also increasing meal frequency, chewing sugar-free gum, and continuing to follow a dental health regimen are helpful ways to alleviate excess saliva.
It probably comes as no surprise that people with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease. This is due to higher blood sugar levels in those with diabetes, which feed the plaque building bacteria.
Since pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of gingivitis, careful monitoring of your oral health is particularly crucial if you have diabetes and are, or considering becoming, pregnant.
The increasing frequency of eating and drinking due to food cravings may lead to cavities and gum disease unless you continue to brush twice daily and floss every day.
My recommendation, consider snacking on healthy foods like apples or carrots which also scrub your teeth and stimulate your gums while you chew on them.
Is it safe to visit a dentist during pregnancy?
Yes, it is perfectly safe to visit your dentist during pregnancy. In fact, some women may need more frequent check-ups due to inflamed gums.
If you need dental work, local anesthetics are safe for both you and your baby. It’s even safe to get an x-ray because your dentist will cover you with a leaded apron that minimizes exposure.
Never skip a visit to the dentist during pregnancy
Oral health assessment and treatment is an essential part of prenatal care. Your dentist can advise you on proper oral hygiene, and map out a dental plan for the rest of your pregnancy.
Tell your dentist know how far along you are, if you have any medical conditions, are taking medications, and if you have received any special advice from your doctor as soon as you suspect you may be pregnant.
During your first trimester care must be postponed
While women with a dental emergency can be treated at any time during their pregnancy, your baby’s organs are developing during the first trimester.
If a routine checkup shows you need dental work, postpone it until the second or third trimester. Also, delay elective procedures until after the baby’s birth.
In the end, I hope you now understand how important dental care is during pregnancy. It’s safe, highly recommended, and can help you avoid preventative complications from occurring. Do you have any questions about dental care during pregnancy? Leave them below!
Author bio: Bryan Wood works for York House Dentist in Amersham & Chesham, maintaining and improving smiles for nearly 30 years with a comforting combination of expertise, experience, and exceptional standards. When he is off-work Bryan likes to spend his time visiting art galleries and photography. This article was reviewed for accuracy by a dental professional.