Pregnancy And Oral Health

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Pregnancy and Oral Health – the things you need to know!

While mums-to-be know the importance of taking special care of their bodies during pregnancy, what they may not be aware of however is how pregnancy (and symptoms such as morning sickness) can affect their teeth and gums.

Condition – bleeding / swollen gums:
Additional amounts of the hormone progesterone in the body make pregnant women more susceptible to plaque build-up, which in turn causes red, puffy and sometimes bleeding gums.

How to cope with it:
Many women mistake these symptoms with brushing too much or too hard, when in fact they should concentrate on cleaning their teeth better to ensure plaque is removed. It’s worth investing in a plaque busting toothpaste. This advanced toothpaste contains two really powerful ingredients; stabilised stannous fluoride and sodium hexametaphosphate, which work together to not only remove plaque but also inhibit plaque regrowth.

As a dentist, I see a major improvement in my patients’ oral health when they switch to power toothbrushes, so pregnancy is a great time to invest in this technology if you haven’t already. They also signal when you are brushing too hard and emit a little vibration every 30 seconds to ensure you’re evenly brushing each quadrant of the mouth until you reach the dentist recommended two minutes.

I always advise my patients to floss daily but this is even more important during pregnancy to combat the plaque build-up in-between teeth. If you find that your gums are more sensitive during pregnancy, try using soft floss to avoid irritating sensitive gums.

Condition – morning sickness:
Morning sickness can increase the acidity levels in your mouth, which can in turn cause erosion of the tooth enamel.

How to cope with it:
Given the increased acidity levels in your mouth after an episode of morning sickness, you should resist the urge to brush your teeth straight away as this can damage the softened tooth enamel. It’s best to rinse your mouth with water first of all, give your saliva time to neutralise the acid effects and then brush your teeth around 60 minutes later.

Condition – calcium deficiency:
Calcium is vital mineral for your baby to grow strong teeth and bones so it is essential that women are getting their full daily requirement. There’s a myth that pregnant women will lose calcium from their teeth if they aren’t getting enough in their diet, but this deficiency will actually occur in the bones.

How to cope with it:
Make sure that you include plenty of calcium-rich foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, spinach, broccoli, seafood and legumes in your diet. A baby’s teeth begin to develop between months three and six of your pregnancy, so it’s especially important to keep on top of your calcium intake during this time. As a result, your bones and teeth – and your baby’s bones and teeth – should be strong and healthy.

Condition – fear of the dentist:
You may be worried about visiting the dentist and this isn’t unique to pregnancy but can have more serious repercussions while you have a baby on board.

How to cope with it:
Just remember that the dentist is there to help and that advances in technology mean many treatments can now be completely painless. Maintaining regular check-ups before, during and after your pregnancy mean any problems you might develop while pregnant can be caught early and treated easily, sometimes with simple dental cleanings.

If possible, schedule a visit to your dentist before you conceive so you can take care of any pre-existing dental problems. If you go to the dentist during your first trimester, let them know you’re pregnant and just go for a check-up and routine cleaning. Ideally, any major dental work should be performed during the second trimester, but if you have a dental emergency, don’t wait! Infections in the mouth can be harmful to you and your baby. While x-rays should be avoided, pregnant women can wear a protective lead apron to protect the baby from any harmful rays if they are concerned.

Condition – teething:
Usually the two lower front teeth (central incisors) come in at about six months of age, followed shortly by the two upper central incisors. During the next 18 to 24 months, the rest of the baby teeth appear, although not in orderly sequence from front to back. All of these 20 primary teeth should be present at two to three years of age.

How to cope with it:
Signs of teething, in addition to fussiness, are drooling and the urge to mouth objects. You can help to ease the discomfort of teeth coming into your child’s mouth by lightly rubbing their gums with a clean finger or a soft towel. A cool teething ring can also help to soothe tender gums, as can chewing on a teething biscuit or a piece of toast.

When the first teeth appear, begin using a children’s soft-bristle toothbrush to clean them on a daily basis. Giving your baby regular oral cleanings after each meal helps to instil good dental health habits early which they can continue with as they grow older.