It’s extremely important to keep your teeth and gums as clean and healthy as possible both before and during pregnancy.
Poor oral health, in particular, gum disease is linked to low birth weight, in addition to general health issues related to heart and respiratory disease in adults. Expecting mothers should avoid the stress of dental treatment, especially if they are already anxious. Good maintenance is crucial to ensuring good oral health.
Tips to ensure a healthy mouth before and during pregnancy include:
- Regular dentist and hygiene visits
- Brushing 2 x day including interdental cleaning e.g. dental floss
- Healthy balanced diet, limiting the frequency of sugary and acidic food and drink consumption
Common oral health problems in pregnancy
Hormonal changes and oral health:
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make your gums more susceptible to inflammation, swelling and bleeding if your gums are not kept free from plaque build-up. This is called pregnancy gingivitis, and is extremely common. You should not be scared if this happens to you.
Some women develop swellings on the gum, sometimes up to the size of a pea or even a grape. This is also related to the hormonal changes during pregnancy when there is a build-up of plaque. These changes in the mouth can continue into breastfeeding but do generally resolve very quickly after pregnancy.
What to do:
- Regular cleaning with your toothbrush and use of interdental aids such dental floss or interdental brushes can help resolve the inflammation.
Morning sickness, heartburn and your teeth:
Many pregnant women suffer from morning sickness or gastric reflux (heartburn). In both of these conditions, the extremely acidic contents of the stomach can coat the teeth when you vomit or have reflux. This acid softens the dental enamel and can result in erosion, making the teeth thinner and weaker and so at greater risk of problems such as fractures or even tooth decay.
Furthermore, if you grind your teeth at night in the presence of this acid and softened enamel, it can make your teeth even more brittle and at risk of damage.
What to do:
After vomiting or experiencing reflux, rinse your mouth with water or an alcohol-free fluoride mouthwash to help wash the acid away. This can help strengthen the enamel surface. Remember, do NOT brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after an ‘acid attack’. after as the abrasive nature of the toothbrush on the softened enamel can cause more damage.
- If you think you clench or grind your teeth, speak to your dentist who can provide customised protective guards for your teeth at night.
Food cravings are very common during pregnancy but be mindful of sugar and acid content as this can be very destructive to the teeth. Many patients snack through a large amount of fresh fruit throughout the day or drink huge amounts of hot lemon water. While of course it is healthy, if continuously consumed, the teeth never get a chance to recover and are constantly covered in sugar and citric acid throughout the day. This makes them more susceptible to problems such as tooth decay or acid erosion.
What to do:
- Limit the frequency of sugary and acidic food throughout the day to give your teeth a break
- Use an alcohol-free Fluoride mouthwash to rinse the sugars and acids off the teeth
Dental treatment and pregnancy:
There are times when dental treatment will be required during pregnancy, if there is an emergency for example. It is safe to undergo most types of dental x-rays and even fillings or dental extractions if needed. There are certain precautions we take in terms of materials we use so you shouldn’t be worried if something needs to be done.
What to do:
- The best way to avoid an emergency dental procedure during pregnancy is to make sure you attend your regular check-ups and hygiene appointments to help prevent problems.
- If you have concerns about potential problems, don’t put it off, get it checked out to prevent it getting worse.
If you have any concerns about your oral health either before or during pregnancy, please contact your dentist to discuss this with them.
Article by Dr. Saul Konviser
Dr Saul Konviser BDS MSc BSc
(Clinical Days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday)
Tel: +44(0) 207 935 3016
47 Montagu Mansions, Marylebone, London, W1U 6LD