Pregnancy and Oral Health
Throughout pregnancy, women may worry about their waistlines and fret about food. You take prenatal vitamins, see your healthcare provider often, get regular exercise, and avoid alcohol and smoking — all in the name of a healthy pregnancy. And, ultimately, a healthy baby.
Something you might not associate with a healthy pregnancy is dental care. But regular dental checkups and cleanings, along with brushing and flossing often, are important for a healthy mouth and a healthy pregnancy.
Seeing the dentist
Pregnant or not, you should be seeing your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and exam. While you're pregnant, it's even more important that you don't skip those twice-yearly visits. Regular exams can help prevent and control gum disease and infections.
Pregnancy hormones can cause oral health problems, like gingivitis and swollen, bleeding, and irritated gums. Gums may also be extremely tender and brushing and flossing may be uncomfortable. If you suffer from gum disease or have problems with your teeth or gums during pregnancy, your dentist may suggest that you schedule cleanings more often throughout the second and third trimesters.
The X-ray risk
The use of X-rays, pain medicine, and local anesthesia when necessary to properly diagnose and treat dental problems is safe during pregnancy. Though X-rays are usually part of a routine dental exam, your dentist may skip them until after you've had your baby.
If you have a dental emergency and X-rays are needed, keep in mind that the amount of radiation given off from a single X-ray is quite low. Your dentist will protect your baby by covering you with a lead apron.
Maintaining a healthy mouth
In addition to regularly scheduled dental cleanings and exams, proper dental care at home can help protect gums and teeth from disease and decay. Brush teeth thoroughly using a toothpaste containing fluoride twice a day. At least once a day, carefully floss between each tooth.
It's also important not to give in too often to those pregnancy cravings if you have a sweet tooth. Try to limit your intake of sugary, sticky, sweet treats. Instead, choose crunchy fresh fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods that are less likely to cause tooth decay. If you do treat yourself to dessert, make sure to brush and floss promptly afterward to prevent tooth decay.
Protecting baby's teeth
Your prenatal trips to the dentist are also a great opportunity to talk about the best ways to care for your new baby's teeth. Ask your dentist how and when to start brushing baby's teeth and gums. Also ask about avoiding habits that can transmit bacteria to baby's mouth. These include putting a pacifier, spoon, or bottle nipple in your mouth to clean it. Also, ask what you can do as your baby grows to help reduce the risk for cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease. This will help your baby's dental health as those first tiny teeth break through.
- Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
- Sacks, Daniel, MD, FACOG