With all the excitement and anticipation you’re feeling, it’s easy to overlook something as routine as dental hygiene during pregnancy. After all, welcoming a new child into your family can feel so joyous that you can lose sight of the little things, like brushing your teeth. While it might feel relatively unremarkable and routine, oral hygiene during your pregnancy can make a big health impact.
And through a few easy changes to your habits, you can help ensure your oral health in pregnancy stays amazing all through your term.
Why You Should Think About Dental Hygiene During Pregnancy
Brushing your teeth and maintaining oral hygiene probably doesn’t take more than ten minutes out of your day. But when you need to find an extra ten minutes on a Tuesday, maybe your time with your toothbrush is the first to go. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? But it’s important to remember that oral hygiene can be incredibly important–both to your health and to your baby’s health.
That’s why more OBGYNs are working to make dental care an important part of your prenatal routine. In part, that’s because pregnancy presents some specific challenges to maintaining good oral health, thanks in large part to the hormone-fueled changes and transformations your body is going through. For most women, daily brushing and flossing will be the best way to keep your teeth healthy, but be sure to discuss any oral discomfort or pain you feel with your dentist or OBGYN.
Oral Health Changes and Pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, your body goes through amazing and profound changes. Your teeth and your gums are no exception, though admittedly those changes might be harder to see. There are some oral health in pregnancy issues you will want to be sure to keep an eye on.
Somewhere between 60-75% of pregnant women will develop gingivitis in the gums during the course of their pregnancy. This pre-gum disease condition usually first presents in the form of red and swollen gums. Your gums may even feel a little more tender than usual. The root cause of pregnancy-induced gingivitis is usually an increase in the hormone progesterone, which is known to increase blood flow to the gums.
Swollen gums can create pockets between your tissue and your teeth. Bacteria can become trapped in these pockets and cause damage and discomfort. As long as you’re seeing your dentist on a regular basis, your gingivitis will likely be kept under control. However, if your gingivitis is particularly troubling or uncomfortable, you may want to talk to your dentist about increasing the frequency of your dental cleanings.
When you’re pregnant, you’re likely to experience significant changes in your diet. Your overall taste in food may change and you may even experience cravings for specific food items. The entire process can be exciting as you get to try all new kinds of foods. It’s not uncommon, however, for these changes in diet to have an impact on your oral health.
In fact, changes in diet is one of the primary reasons–coupled with a change in your hormones and other body chemistry–why women often develop cavities while they are pregnant. It’s not unheard of for women with otherwise perfect oral health to develop their first cavities when they are pregnant.
It’s important that cavities be treated as soon as possible. In most cases, treating your cavities while you’re pregnant won’t be a problem (just be sure that your dentist is aware of your pregnancy), as mild amounts of anesthetic won’t harm your baby, especially during the first and second trimesters.
Morning sickness may not be the part of pregnancy that everyone looks forward to. Thankfully, for most women morning sickness is temporary. By your second trimester, the queasiness and nausea are mostly behind you. But during these first few months of your pregnancy, it’s essential to keep an eye on your oral health because morning sickness can cause, accelerate, and exacerbate tooth decay.
That’s because vomiting exposes your teeth to incredibly acidic substances. Women with particularly severe morning sickness will need to be especially aware of their oral hygiene during this time. You will also want to treat any cavities that develop with some urgency, as acid-based erosion can exacerbate any other tooth decay you may be experiencing.
Usually, your dentist will be able to keep things in check and ensure you’re getting the cleanings you need. Brushing regularly with a fluoride based toothpaste will also help keep your teeth healthy.
Good Dental Hygiene While Pregnant
Gingivitis, cavities, and tooth decay can all be mitigated and modulated by good oral hygiene habits. If you’ve already got great tooth-brushing skills, that means you’re in a fantastic place to keep your teeth looking great. But even if you wish you were brushing more regularly, there are some things you can do to keep your dental hygiene while pregnant fantastic:
- To the degree possible, make sure you’re eating a healthy diet. Avoiding foods and beverages that are high in sugar can help stave off cavities and tooth decay. Also make sure you’re eating plenty of foods that are rich in calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin B12.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day (three times would be better). A good brushing will generally take at least two minutes, and dentists recommend that you use a fluoride toothpaste. (It’s also not a bad idea to use a mechanical toothbrush, if that’s an option.)
- Make sure you floss, but be gentle about it. If your gums are red and swollen, they might be more prone to bleeding. If you have significant discomfort while flossing, be sure to talk to your dentist. (And as a general rule, brush first, floss second.)
- If you’re experiencing a significant amount of morning sickness, consider rinsing your mouth with a solution of baking soda and water (don’t swallow the solution). This will help mitigate the acidity created by vomiting.
- Talk to your dentist about the use of an antiseptic mouthwash. This can be especially helpful if you have developed gingivitis.
- See your dentist regularly. Most dentists recommend a checkup and cleaning every six months or so. You may wish to see your dentist more often if your teeth or gums start experiencing discomfort.
Dental Hygiene and Health Risks
It’s important to take your dental hygiene during pregnancy seriously. Complications with oral health can translate into other health problems, both for you and for your baby. Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to serious periodontal disease, which can result in infection, tooth loss, and bone loss. Some studies have linked periodontal disease with poor outcomes for pregnancy (in some cases resulting in pre-term birth or other serious complications).
There are other long term risks associated with dental hygiene and oral health. But it’s important to keep in mind that these risks can be managed and diminished with regular brushing and tooth care, especially when dental hygiene is part of a comprehensive prenatal health strategy. For most women, making sure that you brush extra well during your pregnancy is enough to ensure a healthy mouth and a brilliant smile.