Pregnancy is a remarkable journey filled with excitement and anticipation. With so much going on on this life-changing journey, its easy to forget to take care of the little things, like your oral health. I noticed myself that during both my pregnancies, my gums would often bleed upon brushing and flossing and feel much more sensitive and tender. They would randomly inflame, ache and bleed. With the hormone fluctuations in your pregnancy, as well as all the nutrients and calcium being diverted to your baby, your body may begin to lack some nutrients. We stress the importance of actively looking after your smile during this time. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the importance of dental care during pregnancy, common oral health concerns, and practical tips to maintain a healthy smile for both you and your baby.
Why does dental care matter so much during pregnancy?
Oral health is closely linked to overall health, and maintaining good dental hygiene during pregnancy is no exception. Here's why dental care is crucial during this special time:
- Hormonal Changes: Pregnancy hormones can affect your oral tissues, making them more susceptible to gum inflammation, known as pregnancy gingivitis.
- Morning Sickness: Frequent vomiting during pregnancy can expose your teeth to stomach acid, which can erode tooth enamel and increase the risk of cavities.
- Gum Health and Pregnancy Outcomes: Some studies suggest a link between gum disease and preterm birth or low birth weight. Maintaining healthy gums may contribute to a healthier pregnancy.
Changing hormonal levels during pregnancy mean that your body will react differently to bacteria on your teeth (plaque). This can lead to swollen and bleeding gums and even to the more serious forms of gum disease such as periodontitis and pregnancy gingivitis.
How do you take care of your teeth during pregnancy?
Here are our tips on the best actions you can take to ensure that your teeth are looked after while you're pregnant:
- Schedule a Dental Checkup: Ideally, schedule a dental checkup before becoming pregnant or early in your pregnancy. Inform your dentist about your pregnancy so that they can tailor your treatment accordingly. As many pregnant women are aware, laying completely flat on your back isn't recommended later in your pregnancy so advise your clinician of your needs and ensure that you speak up for yourself.
- Maintain Excellent Oral Hygiene: Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristle toothbrush. Floss daily to remove plaque and food particles between your teeth and to prevent developing plaque.
- Manage Morning Sickness: Rinse your mouth with water or a fluoride mouthwash after vomiting to help neutralize stomach acid. Avoid brushing immediately after vomiting, as it can further damage enamel softened by acid.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help combat dry mouth, a common pregnancy symptom. Dry mouth can increase the risk of cavities, so staying hydrated is essential.
- Eat a Balanced Diet: Consume a diet rich in calcium, vitamins, and minerals to support both your dental and overall health.
- Manage Pregnancy Gingivitis: If you experience gum sensitivity or bleeding, don't panic. This is a common symptom during pregnancy. Regular dental checkups and professional cleanings can help manage and prevent gingivitis.
- Communicate with Your Dentist: Keep your dentist informed about your pregnancy, any medications you're taking, and any changes in your oral health. They can provide guidance and treatment recommendations tailored to your unique needs.
Treatments to be mindful of while pregnant
Dental clinics have special practices in place for pregnant patients but its important for you to make informed decisions.
One of the most common concerns people have about visiting the dentist while pregnant is being exposed to radiation from x-rays.
Always tell your dentist if you are pregnant, especially if there is a chance that you will need an x-ray. Although x-rays are safe, your dentist may still recommend avoiding them during the first trimester if you're only having a routine check-up. But if you have a dental emergency or severe, non-specific pain, x-rays could still be needed to help your dentist plan your treatment effectively.
However, modern dental x-rays use very low doses of radiation and a single dose is not usually high enough to cause any adverse effects in the development of the fetus.
We generally do not recommend any teeth whitening treatments to be performed whilst you're pregnant and often recommend waiting until after birth for most non-emergency dental treatments.
Teeth whitening and other cosmetic treatments should ideally be avoided during the third trimester in particular, as you may find it uncomfortable to lie still while the whitening gel is applied, cured and working for such a long appointment.
If you're using a home teeth whitening kit, you should make sure that you check that the concentration of hydrogen peroxide is no more than six percent. Higher concentrations can potentially cause tissue damage unless applied by a professional.
Give yourself one thing less to worry about during your beautiful journey into motherhood by combating your oral health early through a preventative model of care. I booked in my cleans every three months to assist me with the bleeding gums and oral health concerns during my pregnancies which definitely helped ease my discomfort and concerns, even though I never had any issues before or after pregnancy. By following these tips and staying proactive about your oral hygiene, you can enjoy a healthy smile throughout your pregnancy and beyond. Remember that regular dental checkups and open communication with your dentist are key to ensuring your dental care aligns with your pregnancy needs. Prioritize your well-being and that of your baby by nurturing your oral health during this special time.
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