Pregnancy and Oral Health
Oral Health Care During Pregnancy
The importance of practising proper dental care is undeniable. Regardless of your age and gender, taking care of your teeth and gums can prevent several oral health issues like bad breath, tooth decay, dental caries, gum disease, and tooth loss. In addition to dental problems, improper oral health is linked to overall health conditions like diabetes, respiratory infection, and cardiovascular disease.
The American Dental Association recommends that everyone, including pregnant women, brush their teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and floss at least once daily to prevent plaque buildup and improve oral health. An oral examination and routine cleanings are also highly recommended for good oral health.
According to some studies, pregnant women may have an increased risk of oral and dental health problems due to an increase in the levels of certain hormones. Optimal oral hygiene during the perinatal period and regular dental checkups are vital to prevent possible dental problems and improve the health of pregnant women and their developing baby.
Pregnancy and Oral Health
How Does Pregnancy Affect Oral Health?
Does Pregnancy Cause Gum Problems?
Poor oral hygiene during pregnancy may put your oral and general health at risk and affect your baby’s health in the future. Taking simple precautions can significantly reduce the risks of oral and dental health problems.
According to some studies, there may be a link between poor oral health during pregnancy and periodontal diseases and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Poor dental hygiene during pregnancy may increase the risks of facing the following oral health conditions:
- low birth weight babies
- pregnancy-associated gingivitis
- premature birth (preterm birth)
- pregnancy tumour (1 in 10 women)
- dry mouth (may increase the risk of tooth decay)
- Tooth enamel erosion (may be due to morning sickness and frequent vomiting)
- gingival tissue ulcerations
- tooth mobility
- dental caries (may be due to changed eating habits, unusual food cravings, and having more sugary snacks)
How Does Poor Oral Hygiene Affect Pregnancy?
Although more research is required, ignoring oral health during pregnancy may lead to poor outcomes.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy may cause your body to have a different and exaggerated reaction to the presence of dental plaque that builds up on your teeth. Pregnancy hormones may cause an increase in the blood flow to the gums, causing gum inflammation and irritation. If your mouth is clean and plaque-free, healthy gums may not show any exaggerated response to pregnancy hormones. However, if gums are already affected by poor oral health, they may worsen during pregnancy, leading to gum disease or periodontal disease.
Chances are pregnant women find it difficult or painful to brush their teeth due to tenderness and swelling of their gums. A pregnant woman may even notice gum bleeding while brushing or flossing. All the irritation and swelling of the gums may cause a pregnant woman to stop dental care, which can put their dental health at risk.
Pregnant women are highly recommended to care about their dental care more strictly and be on the lookout for any signs of gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease. Ignoring pregnancy gingivitis and not seeking the necessary dental treatment may lead to periodontitis. (severe gum disease)
Note: Gingivitis is the early periodontal disease associated with swollen, tender, or sore gums. Gingivitis can also cause bleeding gums, especially while brushing or flossing teeth.
Untreated periodontal disease during pregnancy may increase the risk of preterm low birth weight babies. That’s why taking care of your teeth and gums and seeking periodontal treatment, if necessary, is of utmost importance before pregnancy.
Note: It’s been said that periodontal therapy reduces the chance of preterm low birth weight in women with pregnancy gingivitis. (more research is required)
What Are the Oral Changes Associated with Pregnancy?
For several reasons, specific oral health problems may be more prevalent in pregnant women, such as periodontal disease and tooth decay.
The oral cavity may be more acidic than normal due to frequent vomiting, making teeth more susceptible to decay and erosion. Ensure you do not brush your teeth immediately after you vomit since it can damage your tooth enamel. Chewing sugar-free gum and rinsing with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda combined with 1 cup of warm water will go gentler on your teeth.
Is Dental Treatment Safe During Pregnancy?
While non-emergency dental procedures can wait, necessary treatments and professional cleanings during pregnancy are safe.
The second trimester has been said to be the safest trimester if you need dental treatment. The third trimester is also safe, but women may have difficulty lying back in the dental chair for a long time.
Delaying a necessary dental treatment, such as root canal therapy or tooth extraction, can do more harm than good during pregnancy and may result in more complicated situations.
Is Radiation Exposure Safe During Pregnancy?
Pregnant women are recommended to consult with their doctor about whether or not to go through dental x-rays. However, getting a dental x-ray during pregnancy is unlikely to cause harm or damage to a woman or their developing baby because of the amount of radiation which is very low in a dental x-ray. The dentist may decide to shield your pelvis and abdomen using a special garment or device from radiation exposure.
Is Fluoride Toothpaste OK during Pregnancy?
Tooth brushing and dental floss are integral to leading a healthy lifestyle and maintaining good oral health during pregnancy. Fluoride toothpaste is safe during pregnancy as long as you do not swallow the toothpaste.
Is Mouthwash OK During Pregnancy?
Is It OK to Use Fluoride Mouthwash While Pregnant?
You can use mouthwash to improve dental health during pregnancy and fight bad breath, cavities, and possible tooth sensitivity. Fluoridated mouthwashes that do not contain alcohol are safe to use during pregnancy.
Make sure the product you purchase has the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance.
Can I Use an Electric Toothbrush While Pregnant?
Yes, electric toothbrushes are safe to use during pregnancy. You can use electric toothbrushes to remove plaque from your teeth and improve dental health.
Is “Teeth Whitening” Safe During Pregnancy?
Dental health professionals may suggest that expectant mothers postpone all unnecessary dental treatments and wait until after the baby is born.
Because “teeth whitening” is cosmetic dental work, it can wait until after delivery.
Is Treating Periodontal Disease Safe During Pregnancy?
Non-surgical periodontal treatments performed during the second trimester can be safe and effective in improving the symptoms.
How Can I Avoid Oral Problems During Pregnancy?
Your teeth and gums can stay healthy during pregnancy if you practise proper dental hygiene and arrange dental visits with a dental professional before and during pregnancy.
The following tips may help:
- Brush your teeth twice daily using fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss at least once daily to remove food particles stuck between your teeth.
- Limit your intake of sugary foods as they may increase the risk of some dental problems like dental decay and dental pain. In case of sweet food cravings, try low-sugar foods and healthier alternatives like fresh fruit or plain yoghurt instead of sugary snacks.
- Make sure you do not drink alcohol while pregnant.
- All types of tobacco products should be avoided while pregnant.
- Any signs of gum problems must be addressed ASAP.
- If tooth brushing makes you gag, try using a small soft, head toothbrush like those made for toddlers.
- If your gums are tender or bleed while brushing, try brushing your teeth slowly but do not stop.
- Avoid brushing your teeth after vomiting since it can wear away the enamel.
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