When a woman falls pregnant, it is such an exciting time. As you schedule doctor appointments, shop up a storm, and make plans for the new arrival, visiting the dentist when pregnant doesn’t often make it to the top of your priority list.
We have heard horror stories of women losing all of the calcium from their teeth during pregnancy. While this is now considered an old wives’ tale, some women certainly experience problems with their teeth and gums during pregnancy.
How pregnancy affects dental health
In 2007 when I fell pregnant with my first child, dental care became a very real concern for me. This was because my mother had a horrible time during her first pregnancy with her own oral health. She had told me all about how the hormonal changes and severe morning sickness had practically destroyed her gums and teeth. When my own time came, I was worried I might suffer the same fate.
Admittedly, my mother’s teeth weren’t in the best condition before her pregnancy. But for some reason, as she approached her third trimester, she found her teeth suddenly breaking like chalk. This resulted in the removal of all of her teeth and nice new dentures at the ripe young age of 21.
While such complex dental problems like my mother experienced are not that common, pregnancy can lead to dental issues, including gum disease and tooth decay. This is often due to the effect that pregnancy hormones can have on the teeth and gums. For this reason, it is a good idea to know and understand the importance of proper dental care during pregnancy.
If your gums and teeth aren’t in great condition before pregnancy, the increase in hormones needed for your baby’s development can wreak havoc on their oral health. This can intensify if you’re experiencing morning sickness and vomiting regularly. Vomit is particularly toxic because it contains strong stomach acids, which are used for breaking down the food in your stomach so that your body can digest it. These acids are corrosive and can wear away at the enamel that protects teeth.
Pregnant women often experience cravings for foods higher in sugar and they might be inclined to brush their teeth less due to a far more sensitive gag reflex while brushing. Pica, one of the lesser-known eating disorders that can make you chew on non-nutritious items, can cause severe damage to your tooth. All of these factors combined can form a storm in a teacup for some women and they might notice that their teeth are suffering from it.
How dental health affects pregnancy
Did you know that your oral health is directly connected to the health of your unborn baby? Research tells us that when a pregnant woman has an excessive amount of bacterial growth in her mouth, it can enter the bloodstream through the gums and travel to the uterus. It can then cause the production of prostaglandins that are naturally made in the body for the purpose of bringing on labor. This means that there’s a higher chance of a woman going into premature labor if she has significant oral health problems.
Another strong argument for taking good care of your teeth before and after pregnancy is that there is a high chance of passing poor oral health onto your child. This alone is a perfect reason for doing all you can to make sure that your teeth and gums are in tip-top shape before, during, and after pregnancy.
Preventing dental problems
Dental care begins before pregnancy. If you have healthy teeth and gums before pregnancy, you are less likely to experience dental issues during your pregnancy. Experts recommend that pregnancy is a good time to increase the amount of calcium in your diet. The role of calcium in pregnancy is key to maintaining healthy teeth and bones for both you and your baby. You may find calcium in dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, and almonds.
Another way to protect your teeth during pregnancy is by increasing the amount of vitamin D in your system. Vitamin D is great for helping the body to utilize the calcium that you’re ingesting. You can get it from fatty fish, eggs, bread, cereal, and of course, the sun. Despite vitamin D’s importance, you should also take care so as not to get sunburn. Suppose you find it difficult to get enough vitamin D. In that case, you can always take a supplement upon advice from your doctor.
The basics of dental care
The basics of dental care will go a long way towards ensuring that your teeth remain strong and healthy while your baby grows and develops.
Establishing daily habits are essential for good oral health and you can keep your teeth clean and gums healthy by doing the following:
- Brush your teeth in the morning and night with fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss in between your teeth daily.
- Limit foods and drinks that are high in sugar.
- Avoid tobacco and alcohol.
- Visit your dentist regularly, at least every 6-12 months.
Going to the dentist while pregnant
Even when you’re not pregnant, it is advisable to visit the dentist regularly. A checkup every 6 months is suitable for most people, but your individual circumstances will determine how often you should go. Your dentist will probably recommend several visits across the duration of your pregnancy to check up on the condition of your teeth and gums and make any recommendations needed.
For those who’re planning to get pregnant, it’s good to let your dentist take care of any issues first so that you can keep your teeth as healthy as possible during your pregnancy.
Is dental work while pregnant safe?
Most dental procedures can be performed whether or not you are pregnant. Often patients might be concerned about x-rays during pregnancy. However, the technology used today is designed to use very low doses of radiation. Dental guidelines for pregnant patients by The American Dental Association (ADA) confirm that dental procedures during pregnancy are considered safe.
Your dentist may sometimes recommend waiting until the second trimester for an x-ray. Still, they can perform it in the event of a dental emergency. Procedures such as having a tooth pulled out, a root canal, or orthodontic treatments can often be done if recommended by your dentist.
Can you get numbed at the dentist while pregnant? If local anesthesia is required for a procedure during pregnancy, your dentist will use the lowest dose possible. An article published in the Journal of Dental Anesthesia and Pain Medicine demonstrated local anesthetics are safe for both the mother and the developing baby. Hence they must be considered when planning dental treatments to improve the mother’s oral health.
Additional cosmetic treatments such as tooth whitening are not recommended during pregnancy. This is because there has not been sufficient research conducted surrounding the safety of these kinds of treatments. Therefore, they are best avoided until after your child’s birth and preferably until breastfeeding has ceased.
Neglecting your oral hygiene and dental care during pregnancy can significantly impact the mother and the growing baby. Taking steps to care for the teeth and gums each day will dramatically decrease the likelihood of any complications arising during pregnancy. Also, visiting the dentist regularly will ensure that you are clear about the state of your teeth and gums so that any issues can be dealt with promptly.