Pregnancy can be both a wonderful and challenging experience for women, with the body undergoing many stresses and transformations. During this time it is important to regularly assess and maintain your health to ensure a healthy pregnancy. However, many women easily forget that their oral health is just as important to maintain before, during and after being pregnant.
Before getting pregnant
Try to make an appointment with your dentist before getting pregnant. This way the dentist is able to assess your current oral health status and treat any problems detected to reduce the amount of treatment done during your pregnancy. It is also a good idea to have your teeth fully cleaned at this stage.
During pregnancy, the stresses put on your body can cause a range of problems to occur to your teeth and gums. It is important to manage and optimise your oral health to reduce risk to yourself and your baby.
Organising regular dental check-ups throughout your pregnancy is a good way to ensure your oral health is optimal. Make sure to tell your dentist that you are pregnant, so that some treatments can be avoided. We recommend one appointment during the first trimester for a full examination and clean, and one more appointment during the third trimester for another clean. This aims to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
X-ray technology has advanced a lot from the past and has become much more safe for the patient. Therefore X-rays during pregnancy (if necessary) are safe to carry out. Extra precautions, such as the use of a leaded apron, will be made to ensure that you and your baby are fully protected during the procedure.
Certain hormones released during pregnancy can make some women more vulnerable to developing gum diseases. This is not necessarily due to the accumulation of plaque but is a more severe response to plaque as a result of hormonal changes.
- Gingivitis: characterised by inflamed and bleeding gums – affects approx. 70% of pregnant women
- Periodontitis (chronic gum infection): associated with tissue and bone loss – may increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight (Xiong, 2006)
In order to minimise the risk of developing gum disease make sure to
- Brush twice daily for at least 2 minutes
- Use a fluoride toothpaste
- Try to floss at least once a day
This unfortunate side effect of pregnancy can cause major damage to your teeth if not properly managed. Vomit contains a high acid concentration and repeated vomiting can break down the enamel of teeth, increasing the risk of dental decay.
Suggestions for management include:
- Immediately rinsing your mouth thoroughly with water
- Avoid brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes to an hour to avoid further damage
- Use a fluoride toothpaste to strengthen the enamel
Maintaining a healthy diet is extremely important not just for your dental health but also for your baby’s. Sweet cravings are common during pregnancy, however increased frequency of sugar and acid attacks increase your risk of developing dental caries.
The first stages of a baby’s tooth development occur about 3 months into the pregnancy. A balanced, healthy diet that is rich in calcium and vitamin D is essential for not only maintaining your bone mass but also to ensure healthy teeth, gum and bone development for your baby.
Foods rich in calcium/vitamin D include:
It is a good idea to make an appointment with your dentist soon after delivery for a full dental and periodontal examination.
- Johnson, T. (2016). Dental Care Before, During, and After Pregnancy. Retrieved July 4, 2016, from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/dental-care-pregnancy
- Pregnancy and teeth. (2016). Retrieved July 4, 2016, from Better Health Channel: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/pregnancy-and-teeth?viewAsPdf=true
- Dental Practice Education Research Unit. (n.d.). Retrieved July 4, 2016, from The University of Adelaide: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/arcpoh/dperu/special/pregnancy/pregnancy_DL.pdf
- Xiong, X., Buekens, P., Fraser, W., Beck, J., & Offenbacher, S. (2006). Periodontal disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes: a systematic review. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology , 113 (2).