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10 October 2023

Pregnant? Take Care of Oral Health for You and Your Baby

Pregnancy causes major hormonal changes and imbalances and, as a result, pregnant women are more susceptible to dental issues such as gum disease (gingivitis) and cavities. 

It is not just the mother that can be affected — as her dental problems can also impact her baby’s health. Babies of mothers with a history of poor dental health are often born underweight. This is why oral hygiene and dental care are vitally important during all stages of pregnancy.

Possible Problems

The increase in hormones such as estrogen and progesterone in pregnant women can have a profound effect not just on the body but on a woman’s oral hygiene and dietary habits. While many of these changes may be of minor significance others can be harmful to the teeth and gums.

Common issues include:

Tooth Damage. It is quite common for many pregnant women to suffer from a condition called pica. This condition causes a craving for unusual foods like ice and even inedible items such as coal — which can chip and crack the teeth.

Gum Disease. Some pregnant women experience tenderness of the gums and, as a result, tend not to brush or floss as regularly — or as well as they should. This may be understandable, but failing to maintain good oral hygiene increases the likelihood of gum disease setting in.

Cavities. If gum disease progresses, it can easily lead to the formation of cavities. It should be noted that the bacteria that causes cavities in a mother’s teeth can be passed on to the baby — and lead to dental issues for the baby in later life.

Enamel Erosion. The excess acid produced by morning sickness can eat into dental enamel and erode the surfaces of teeth.

Pregnancy Tumors. Usually formed on the gums, pregnancy tumors are not cancerous but can be painful. These growths usually disappear after the birth –but may, on occasion, require surgical removal.

Most of these dental issues during pregnancy are commonplace but can often be avoided by simply maintaining proper oral hygiene. This ensures the best possible outcome for both mother and baby.

Simple But Effective Tips

A comprehensive and effective oral hygiene program for all pregnant women should include:

  • Brushing twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste
  • Regular rinsing the mouth (once daily) with a fluoridated and alcohol-free mouthwash
  • Drinking plenty of water during the day
  • Quitting cigarettes and other tobacco products (and avoiding cigarette smoke)
  • Strictly limiting (or totally foregoing) alcohol
  • Absolutely avoiding any recreational drug use
  • Chewing sugar-free gum or mints containing xylitol after eating
  • Rinsing the mouth thoroughly with water or mouthwash after meals and snacks

If morning sickness is a regular problem, a simple solution after vomiting will help. Rinse the mouth with a cup of warm water — mixed with a teaspoon of baking soda — to nullify the effects of stomach acids on dental enamel.

Informing the dentist of the pregnancy and getting regular check-ups are important in dental hygiene — and any issues arising should be brought to the dentist’s attention as soon as possible.

Good and Bad Choices

Diet also plays a key role in keeping the teeth and gums in top condition and some foods containing folic acid are particularly beneficial.

Good choices include:

  • Vegetables like broccoli, lettuce, spinach, asparagus and most leafy, green vegetables
  • Legumes including lentils, peas and beans
  • Fruit such as strawberries, oranges, papaya, bananas and cantaloupe
  • Breads, cereals, pasta, rice, crackers and cornmeal with added folic acid
  • Many everyday fruits and vegetables are safe and good for pregnant women as are many dairy products such as cheese, milk and unsweetened yogurts. 
  • Also on the list of healthy foods are fish, eggs, chicken, beans and nuts. 

The urge to snack during pregnancy is quite common but snacks should be healthy and milk, fruit, nuts, vegetables and yogurt should be chosen over fizzy drinks, chocolate and candy.

On the flip side, there are some foods and drinks that should be avoided as much as possible – or at least consumed in moderation.

Bad choices include:

  • Drinks with high sugar content
  • Cookies and cakes
  • Candy
  • Fruit flavored drinks
  • Hard foods that can chip teeth

Indulging in a fizzy drink or sugary treat is only normal but should be the exception rather than the norm. 

It is also important to remember to rinse the mouth after such sugary indulgences to remove the sugars which can possibly lead to the onset of gingivitis.

Baby Teeth

After the baby is born, there is often a tendency for new mothers to drop their guard and slacken off on oral hygiene. This is very unwise – as dental care is a lifelong undertaking. 

Also, it’s critical to take care of the newborn infant’s dental needs. Although the baby has no teeth at birth, the mouth and gums still need to be kept clean and free from debris and bacteria.

Proper oral hygiene begins on day one and starting this early in life will help ensure that many common dental issues that affect people today can be largely avoided and ensure that the new arrival has plenty of reasons to smile all the way through life!

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