The current baby boom is showing no signs of slowing down – with nearly 3.9 million little ones welcomed onto the planet this past year. Today’s expectant mothers should be commended for taking extra steps to ensure they’re as healthy as possible during pregnancy, including eating a more balanced diet, ensuring they’re consuming the appropriate vitamins and supplements, and avoiding potential toxins. But one area pregnant woman may overlook is their oral health, when in fact, it’s an incredibly important part of ensuring the overall well-being of both you and your unborn child. Below are some key oral health considerations if you’re pregnant or considering becoming pregnant.
When you’re pregnant, be prepared for an increase of estrogen and progesterone hormones, both of which can exaggerate the impact plaque has on your oral health. A buildup of plaque at any time can lead to gingivitis; inflamed gums susceptible to bleeding or pain. But with increased hormone levels, even the slightest interaction between your gums and plaque can increase or introduce gingivitis symptoms from as early as the second month of pregnancy. Pregnancy gingivitis is quite common, but it can be treated the same way as non-gestational gingivitis: through frequent brushing and flossing, good nutrition and potentially additional professional dental cleanings. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to more serious periodontal disease. In addition, research has drawn a link between pre-term babies and gingivitis, potentially through a build-up of bacteria that enters the bloodstream and can reach the uterus, triggering a certain type of chemical production thought to induce pre-term labor.
Another potential side effect of pregnancy gingivitis are benign (non-cancerous) mouth tumors that form due to excessive gum irritation. These swollen lumps may bleed easily and look unattractive, but they are generally harmless. Usually the tumors will subside after the baby is born, however if they don’t, or if you are having difficulty with chewing, brushing or just feeling general discomfort, the tumor may be removed by your dentist.
Approximately 75% of women – or one in four – suffers from morning sickness during her pregnancy, typically in the first trimester. What triggers morning sickness varies between women, but for many it can be linked to strong scents or tastes – including your toothpaste. If morning sickness is making it difficult to brush your teeth, try switching to an unflavored or mild-flavored toothpaste. At the very least, rinse your mouth out frequently with water and / or a mild mouth rinse.
Dental Visits and Procedures
Generally speaking, you can visit the dentist during any period of your pregnancy. That being said, the safest time to visit is during your second trimester, as your body may be more sensitive and the baby’s development may be more impacted during both the first and third trimesters. If you can postpone a procedure till after the baby is born – do it. If however, you’re in extreme discomfort and require emergency dental care, being pregnant is no reason to avoid visiting the dentist. Simply inform the dentist that you are pregnant, and take care to avoid x-rays and assess whether any recommended medications are safe for you to take.
Your Baby’s Oral Health
Believe it or not, the quality of your baby’s teeth actually begins in the womb. Ensuring you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet is critical to many components of your child’s development, but from as early as the third month, your baby’s teeth will start forming – and what you eat will impact them. Calcium-rich such as cheese, yogurt and seeds can help provide the minerals your baby needs to build strong, healthy teeth and bones.