Pregnancy is an exciting time for women (And their other half!)
However, it is also a challenging time in terms of health.
Changes in hormones mean many women face various health issues including oral health issues.
Many have heard the saying “one tooth is lost with every pregnancy” but this is merely an urban myth.
The truth is, the hormone changes brought about by pregnancy may cause some changes to oral health, but, as with other health issues, and these can be managed effectively.
Whether you are pregnant or not, everyone should maintain good oral hygiene.
It is important to have a daily routine of care established so that you have a good foundation. Brush twice a day with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Use dental floss to clean between teeth where the toothbrush cannot reach. Just use these simple steps will ensure that plaque (bacteria, saliva and food remnants) does not build up.
Also, visit your dentist regularly – if you need any dental treatment, it may be more comfortable for you to have this done before pregnancy in case you experience nausea or tiredness as your pregnancy progresses.
If you are already pregnant or suspect you are, it is important to inform your dentist as it may affect the type of care necessary for you.
There are many common oral health issues that pregnant women may face.
Again, simple steps can be taken to deal with each issue.
Plaque and gingivitis when you are pregnant, hormonal changes may lead to an increase in the amount of plaque on your teeth. If plaque isn’t removed, it can cause gingivitis or even gum disease. Symptoms include bleeding and swelling of the gums.
Some pregnant women suffer from “pregnancy gingivitis”, with the condition likely to appear in the second trimester.
Here, hormonal changes include bleeding in the gums despite the best possible hygiene measures. Your gums usually revert to normal after baby is born.
If not treated, gingivitis can develop into more severe forms of gum disease such as periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection of the gum tissue that supports the tooth, where the bacteria starts to move deeper and thrive in the gap between the gum and the tooth, causing the attachment of the tooth and its supporting tissues to break down.
If identified, this must be treated as a matter of urgency as gum disease has been linked to premature birth and low birth-weight in babies.
If you suffer from morning sickness and vomiting, the acid from your stomach contents has the potential to dissolve some of the tooth enamel. To avoid damage to your teeth, don’t brush the ‘softened’ tooth enamel if you have just vomited.
Instead, smear some fluoride toothpaste on your teeth and rinse with water or use a fluoride mouth rinse.
This can sometimes occur when you are brushing your teeth.
If you feel sick, try to concentrate on your breathing while cleaning your back teeth. Alternatively, you may need to brush without toothpaste.
A fluoride mouth rinse can be used after brushing.
Cravings in themselves are not a health issue but if you are frequently snacking on high carbohydrate foods, you may risk getting dental decay. Try to vary the snacks you are eating and choose foods low in sugar, fat and salt but high in fibre. In addition lots of milk and water.
Your Baby’s Oral Health
Mothers-to-be can also directly affect the oral health of their babies.
For example, babies begin to develop their teeth and bones in the fourth month of pregnancy. The calcium and phosphorous they need to do this comes from what you eat. Your baby will need even more of these minerals when you are seven-nine months pregnant.
The best way to obtain these minerals is through the intake of dairy products or, if you’re are having difficulty consuming the recommended amount, your doctor may recommend calcium supplements.
The recommended daily intake for pregnant women is 1 100mg during pregnancy and 1 200 mg while breastfeeding.
Adapted from Australian Dental Association information sheets Aug 2005