As all mothers know, and all expectant mothers soon learn, pregnancy is an extraordinarily busy time. The demands of pregnancy make it impossible to find time for all of the things that should be done. Among the things that are simply too important to neglect or postpone is proper dental care. In recent years, research has confirmed what dentists have long known: That good overall health is closely linked to good dental health. This is especially true for expecting mothers who need to protect not only their own health but also the health of their unborn baby. Here are some tips that will help the expecting mother protect her teeth and gums during pregnancy.
Tip #1: See Your Dentist Regularly During Pregnancy:
Both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Dental Association recommend that expecting mothers have dental exams and preventative dental care before and during pregnancy. Dental care is essential when expecting because the physical changes a woman’s body experiences during pregnancy can lead to damage of both the teeth and the gums. The rising hormone levels associated with pregnancy can lead to the swelling and irritation of the gums, a condition commonly known as “pregnancy gingivitis.” This inflammation can cause bleeding gums and trap food particles, both of which can cause or worsen gum disease. In severe cases, gum disease has been linked to premature birth. A regular visit to a dentist for routine dental care, including cleanings, will prevent pregnancy gingivitus and other potentially dangerous oral infections.
Tip #2: Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is easy to recommended but hard to maintain. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on eating a healthy diet during pregnancy but you should also ask your dentist for advise on foods that will help you maintain healthy teeth and gums. One of the most important nutrients for strong, healthy teeth is calcium. Milk and other dairy products are a very good source for calcium. During pregnancy, yogurt and cheeses are good choices from the dairy group because they supply calcium without adding too many calories. Vitamin C is one of the most crucial nutrients for maintaining healthy gums. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best source for vitamin C but, if you cannot get enough enough servings, fruit juices and vitamin supplements are a viable alternative. As always, the urge to constantly snack should be resisted. If you do need a snack, choose one that is nutritious for you and your baby, like fresh fruits and vegetables or healthy dairy products.
Tip 3: Brush Your Teeth Three Times Per Day:
As always, the most important tool in maintaining healthy teeth is the toothbrush. Regularly brushing your teeth three times per day will go a long way in ensuring good oral health. This is especially important during pregnancy when physical changes, particularly changing hormone levels, make the teeth and gums more susceptible to damage by bacteria. For some women, brushing with an antibacterial toothpaste is recommended. Ask your dentist for advise on the best toothpaste for your situation. If you experience sensitive gums during pregnancy, an extra soft toothbrush can help minimize the discomfort and allow you to maintain your brushing routine.
Tip #4: Keep Flossing:
The second cornerstone of good home dental hygiene is flossing – a simple but very effective means to preventing tooth decay and gum disease. The flossing habit is even more important during pregnancy when fluctuations in hormone levels often leads to inflammation of the gums. This swelling creates pockets in the gums that can trap food particles and foster the growth of bacteria. Flossing helps prevent the growth of bacteria by dislodging food and other materials from between the teeth and along the gum line.
Tip #5: Use A Mouthwash to Fight Bacteria in the Mouth
Your dentist can recommend a mouthwash that will not only make you feel fresh but also help prevent the gum disease that can accompany pregnancy. There are many safe and effective mouthwash products that will fight the growth of bacteria in the mouth and help prevent oral infections and gum disease. In cases where gum disease is present or threatening, your dentist may recommend a prescription strength anti-bacterial mouthwash.
Tip #6: Don’t Put Off Necessary Dental Work
Many expectant mothers are worried about the potential adverse affects of dental work other than cleanings may have on their babies. Non-emergency dental treatments such as fillings, root canals, and extractions can be safely performed during pregnancy and are recommended because they help reduce the chance of potentially dangerous oral infection. If you need non-emergency dental work during pregnancy, the second trimester is the best time to have it done. Because fetal organ development takes place during the first trimester, non-emergency procedures should be postponed, if possible. During the third trimester, you may find it very uncomfortable and difficult to sit in the dental chair for the time needed to complete dental procedures. As always, check with your doctor before undergoing any treatment of taking any medication. If you have any known risks linked to your pregnancy it may be best to postpone your dental treatment until after you deliver.
By: Dr. Trinh Pham