Pregnancy is an exciting time and one during which a woman will be paying close attention to her health. Many are surprised to learn that being pregnant can actually affect your oral health and lack of proper oral care can impact your experience and your child. Here are some things to keep in mind about pregnancy and oral health to keep you and your baby safe and smiling.
Share Your News
When you discover that you are pregnant, let your dentist know. They can then provide you with helpful information about oral health and pregnancy, and will map out a plan for your oral care during this period. In fact, if you are planning to become pregnant, it’s a good idea to share that information as well.
Prevent “Pregnancy Gingivitis”
During pregnancy, changes in your hormone levels can cause your gums to react more negatively to the presence of plaque. The result can be red, tender, swollen gums that bleed more easily. You may begin to notice this as early as the second month. Left untreated, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease. Another potential issue is pregnancy tumors—non-cancerous growths in the mouth that form when swollen gums become further irritated. They generally go away on their own after your baby is born, but be sure to tell your dentist if you find them developing.
To prevent gingivitis, gently brush your teeth at least twice a day (ideally after every meal), paying close attention to the area near the gumline. In addition, you should floss daily and consider using an anti-plaque mouthwash. More frequent dental cleanings are also recommended. From a nutritional standpoint, focus your eating on healthy foods like raw fruits and vegetables, and be sure you are getting enough vitamin C and B12.
Gingivitis and Your Baby
Recent studies suggest a link between preterm, low birthweight babies and gingivitis. It is believed that excess bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream through your gums and make its way to your uterus, where it stimulates the production of prostaglandins. These hormones are associated with early labor.
Cleanings and Other Procedures
As mentioned above, cleanings are an important part of preventing “pregnancy gingivitis,” so you should schedule one or more of them during your pregnancy. Other elective procedures including non-emergency x-rays, however, are best left until after your baby is born. If you have a dental emergency, you should see your dentist as soon as possible. There are baby-safe treatments for any dental issue. If you have not already, be sure to let the dentist’s team know you are pregnant, and if possible, contact your obstetrician prior to treatment.
Bottom Line for You and Your Baby
Your oral health is a key component of your overall health. And your overall health is critically important to your unborn child. Your dentist will be thrilled to hear your news and happy to provide safe and effective treatment as you await the arrival of your baby.