It’s extremely important to keep your teeth and gums as clean and healthy as possible both before and during pregnancy.
Poor oral health, especially gum disease during pregnancy, has been associated with low birth weight, pre-eclampsia and pre-term birth in addition to general health issues related to heart and respiratory disease as well as gestational diaebetes. We also don’t want expecting mothers to have to undergo the stress of dental treatment for any problems lurking around, especially if they are already anxious, so good maintenance is crucial to ensuring good oral health.
Some basic tips for ensuring 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
Some of the more common oral health problems that occur during pregnancy include:
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 extremely common and is called pregnancy gingivitis and you should not be scared if this happens to you.
For some women, they can develop swellings on the gum, sometimes up to the size of a pea or even a grape, which again is 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 but also 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 sicknessáor gastric reflux (heartburn). In both of these conditions, the stomach contents which are extremely acidic, 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 to strengthen the enamel surface. Remember, do NOT brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after an æacid attackÆ 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 you must be aware of the 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. While it can be a stressful situation for women, it is safe to have 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 for example but you shouldnÆt 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 for 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 as it can get worse.
If you have any concerns about your oral health either before or during pregnancy, please contact me at Montagu Dental and I would be happy to discuss these with you.
Article by Dr. Saul Konviser, Montagu Dental
020 7935 3016 / firstname.lastname@example.org