Finding out you’re expecting is a joyous time for parents. Mothers, of course, have the most challenge in making sure they have a healthy pregnancy and problem-free childbirth. Many changes take place during pregnancy, and the health of the mouth is no exception. There are many myths that exist during pregnancy as far as dental care is concerned. Concerns include should you take x-rays and the harmful effects on the unborn, effects of ultrasonic cleanings or even what to do with a toothache. This article will help separate fact from myth.
For years, the mouth has been viewed as a separate part of the body with no connection to general health. Now we realize heart disease may have a direct relationship to gum disease, there is a higher risk of respiratory illness with poor oral health, and studies report poor oral health increases the risk of problem pregnancy including miscarriage.
With the right facts about how oral health can affect pregnancy, the risk of problems during this important time can be minimized.
When It’s Safe to Get Dental Treatment
Try to see your dentist before getting pregnant. Your dentist will check your teeth and gums carefully, and any oral health problems can be addressed and treated prior to you becoming pregnant.
Once pregnant, make sure your dentist knows how far along you are. It’s also very important to advise your dentist of the names and dosages of any medications you are taking or prenatal vitamins prescribed by your physician. Include any medical advice your doctor has given you. This is vital to your dentist who may need to alter your treatment based on this information. For example, the antibiotic tetracycline can affect the development of your child’s teeth and should not be given during pregnancy. Never use aspirin unless prescribed by your prenatal care provider.
Dentists now agree that it is safe to get dental treatment during pregnancy. However, since 80 percent of spontaneous miscarriages occur during the first trimester, it is advisable to avoid any non-urgent treatment until the second or third trimester. By the second trimester, the major layers of the internal organs of your baby have developed, thereby reducing the risk of exposure to any harmful or necessary medications that may be needed.
During the second trimester, it’s also easier for mother to recline in the dental treatment chair for extended periods of time. However, it may be helpful to get short breaks if you do have to be in the dental chair for longer periods of time.
American Dental Association Guidelines For Care During Pregnancy Includes:
- To prevent transmission of oral bacteria from mother to baby during pregnancy, do not delay needed treatment.
- Frequent vomiting (known as ‘morning sickness’) can increase the risk of tooth erosion. This can be reduced by eating healthy snacks that are high in protein, such as cheese, throughout the day. Make sure to rinse your teeth after vomiting with a teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water. Tooth brushing after vomiting may exacerbate the erosion.
- Brush your teeth morning and at bedtime, and floss daily.
- Brushing with xylitol-containing toothpaste and other containing products, such as chewing gum, helps promote a healthy mouth.
- Keep dental check-ups as recommended by your dentist.
X-rays and Pregnancy
With modern digital radiology, exposure to radiation is extremely low. You and your unborn child are generally at a higher risk from gum disease or tooth infection, than you are with radiation exposure. Other areas you are exposed to radiation include the sun, microwaves and your cell phones.
Gum Disease and Problem Pregnancy Connection
Evidence from recent studies shows a connection between gum disease and low birth weight babies and premature delivery. In order to avoid transmission of oral bacteria from mother to child and to prevent problem pregnancies, it’s important to see a dentist before and during pregnancy.
Often during pregnancy, due to hormonal changes, the gums become easily inflamed and appear to be swollen. The cleaner you keep the teeth and gums, the less likely this condition will occur or get worse. Self-help with daily oral hygiene and three month visits to your dentist can help prevent “pregnancy gingivitis.”
Special Medical Conditions and Dental Treatment Approximately 12–22 percent of pregnant women have high blood pressure or they may develop it during pregnancy. The American Dental Association (ADA) warns that high blood pressure disorders may increase the risk of bleeding during certain dental procedures.
In the U.S., 2–5 percent of pregnant women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This may cause inflammation of the gums, especially with poorly controlled diabetes. Controlling all sources of acute or chronic inflammation helps control diabetes. When getting dental treatment, request to maintain a semi-seated positioning with a pillow. This position will help prevent nausea or aspiration and can also make you feel more comfortable.
Healthy Mom = Healthy Baby
Now that we know unhealthy mouth can affect the health of your unborn, it’s important to take a few steps to help prevent problem pregnancy:
- Practice proper oral hygiene on a daily basis.
- Avoid sugary snacks, especially for those moms-to-be who have sweet cravings. Substitute healthy snacks and fruits for those sweets that are the cause of tooth decay. Xylitol chewing gum can also curb the sweet cravings and help prevent tooth decay.
- Eat healthy, balanced and nutritious foods. Essential minerals are important for the baby’s teeth, gums, and bones as they develop. Make sure your diet includes dairy products, cheese and yogurt.
How to Brush, Floss and Clean Your Teeth and Gums:
- Use alcohol free mouthwash and swish it around your mouth.
- Floss, making sure you gently clean under the gums.
- Rinse your toothbrush and dab on it a small pea size amount of your favorite xylitol toothpaste (such as Cleure) that is free of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).
- Brush every side of every tooth in a circular motion.
- Brush your gums gently.
- Keep your toothbrush in dry place.
- Replace your toothbrush frequently, especially after a cold.