Tips for Brushing For 2: Dental Health During Pregnancy
Written by Dr. DeAngelis
There are plenty of things that feel confusing during pregnancy. Which car seat is the best? How do I know if I’m in labor? Does this prenatal vitamin have the right nutrients in it? The list of questions goes on and on, but there’s one part that shouldn’t leave you scratching your head: dental health during pregnancy.
Your dental health is always important, and it takes on even more significance during pregnancy. The condition of your teeth, tongue, and gums have a direct effect on the health and safety of your baby.
Use these tips to protect your dental health during pregnancy and stop unwanted complications before they begin.
How Does Pregnancy Impact Dental Health?
There’s an old saying shared by mothers- You get one cavity for every baby you have! It might sound like a joke, but there’s a real truth inside that phrase.
When you become pregnant, so many things change at once! You become exhausted, nauseous, and overwhelmed. On top of all that, your growing baby uses the minerals in your body to develop her own bones and teeth. This is why prenatal vitamins in pregnancy are so important! They’re formulated to restore your body’s vital nutrients like folate, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
In theory, as long as you take a daily prenatal vitamin, your baby’s development will thrive and you won’t experience any side effects of nutrient deficiency. Unfortunately, this theory doesn’t always work. Many pregnant women can’t properly absorb the nutrients from their vitamins. Instead, they’re left grappling with the side effects of nutrient deficiency and pregnancy, including oral health problems.
Cavities During Pregnancy
The physical and emotional changes brought on by pregnancy may put you at a higher risk of cavities.
A cavity develops when oral bacteria, plaque, and acid wear away your tooth enamel until it decays. Since pregnancy tends to increase the amount of acid in the mouth, especially if you have morning sickness, cavities can form quickly and unexpectedly.
If left untreated, cavities during pregnancy cause dangerous complications:
- Oral abscess
- Increased risk of cavities for child
- Development of periodontal disease
The more cavities you get, the more likely you are to experience pregnancy gingivitis as well.
Gingivitis and Gum Disease
Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease, an inflammatory disease of the gum tissue. If you notice any of these symptoms, pregnancy gingivitis could be the culprit:
- Bad breath
- Red, swollen gums
- Soft gums that bleed easily
Even if you enjoyed a healthy, low-maintenance mouth before pregnancy, you may still be at risk. Fluctuations in estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones send your carefully balanced oral environment toppling over like a Jenga tower.
This explains why nearly 75% of all pregnant women show signs of gingivitis during pregnancy.
The Dangers of Dental Problems During Pregnancy
Gingivitis and cavities during pregnancy don’t just harm your mouth. Unfortunately, they place your growing baby at risk of serious health problems as well.
Preterm Birth and Low Birth Weight
Untreated gingivitis eventually morphs into full-blown gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease cultivates oral bacteria that eat away at gum tissue and burrows into nooks and crannies to breed infection. Over time, this dangerous bacteria can escape the mouth and travel through amniotic fluid. This leaves the placenta, uterus, and cervix vulnerable to triggers for premature labor.
Other types of bacteria may also cause low birth weight by slowing circulation through the placenta. This is a very dangerous problem that deprives growing babies of oxygen and nutrients.
Transfer Bacteria to Baby
Even if you don’t show signs of poor dental health during pregnancy, you may expose your baby to harmful bacteria through blood or amniotic fluid. Newborn babies swallow amniotic fluid during labor and must process all of the bacteria present in amniotic fluid through their brand new digestive systems.
Research identifies a range of nearly 50 different species of bacteria found in the stomachs of newborn babies. Though most of the bacteria are normal, certain strains do originate from the mother’s oral cavity and increase the risk of infection.
Important Tips: Pregnancy and Dental Care
You owe it to yourself and your baby to keep your mouth as healthy as possible during pregnancy. Even with factors like spiking hormones and morning sickness, it’s still possible to use a consistent oral routine to enhance your dental care.
Brush Twice a Day
Pregnancy can interrupt the standard twice-a-day brushing routine by causing extreme exhaustion at night. Do your best to brush twice a day, every day, in order to prevent plaque buildup. Your gums may feel sensitive and bleed easily during pregnancy, so use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush gently.
The simple act of brushing twice a day goes a long way toward eliminating dangerous oral bacteria and stopping cavities before they begin.
Floss Once a Day
Flossing is also essential, even if it’s not the most popular part of dental health during pregnancy. Flossing removes plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. It’s important to stop bacteria from building up between your teeth so that microbes don’t eat away at your gum tissue.
Chew Xylitol Gum
Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener with many therapeutic properties. Chewing xylitol gum a few times a day is a great way to stimulate saliva production and clear away food debris and plaque.
Rinse with Baking Soda and Water
If you’re struggling with wicked morning sickness and nausea that leave your throat and mouth scorching with heartburn and acid, try rinsing with baking soda and water. This gentle combination neutralizes the acids in your mouth so that they can’t eat away at your enamel.
Eat and Drink Wisely
There are a million different reasons to explain why it’s important to eat healthy during pregnancy, and your mouth is one of them! High-sugar foods add to the plaque, acid, and bacteria threatening your teeth and gums. By eating a nutritious diet filled with fruits, vegetables, cheese, yogurt, nuts, and lean meat, you’ll strengthen your teeth instead of undermining them.
The same goes for your beverages. Soda and juice don’t do your mouth any favors, but water and low-fat milk offer many benefits.
See Your Dentist Regularly
Visiting the dentist becomes all the more important during pregnancy as well. Only an experienced dentist can assess the condition of your teeth and gums, catch early signs of problems like gum disease or cavities, and provide professional treatment advice. Do yourself and your baby a favor by keeping your date with your dentist marked firmly on your calendar every six months.
DeAngelis Family Dentistry serves patients throughout Carlsbad, California with compassion, understanding, and genuine concern. Visit Dr. DeAngelis and her team for superior prenatal and postnatal dental care. Call 760-444-5507 to learn more and make an appointment today.