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Pregnancy and oral heath

There’s already so much to think about when you’re expecting a baby, you might not spare a thought for how pregnancy affects your teeth and gums. But by planning ahead and knowing how to respond to common pregnancy side-effects, you can improve your chances of avoiding oral health problems and needing to arrange treatments during this busy time.[1]

No need to listen to the old wives’ tale that you “lose a tooth for every child.” With today’s improved standard of oral care, efforts to keep your smile healthy all through your pregnancy and beyond just requires knowing how to manage the risks and sticking to a good hygiene routine.

Gum disease (pregnancy gingivitis)

Hormone changes that happen during pregnancy can make some women more prone to gum problems, including swelling, infections and periodontal disease (gum disease). This is most likely to develop in the second trimester, as hormone changes may affect how your body reacts to plaque.[2]

In the early stage of gum disease (gingivitis), your gums may appear red or swollen, or bleed when you brush and floss your teeth. This can usually be treated at home simply by improving your oral hygiene. Your dentist may also recommend a scaling treatment to remove any plaque that’s already formed on your teeth.

If gingivitis isn’t treated, it can develop into periodontitis. This advanced stage of gum disease can lead to tooth loss and cause permanent damage to your gums, teeth and jaw. Periodontitis can require more intensive oral surgery to correct, such as root planing to remove plaque from inside the gum.

If you notice anything unusual about your gums, you should make an appointment with your dentist, as research has linked pregnancy gingivitis to a higher risk of premature birth. After you give birth, your risk of developing gum problems should return to its normal level.

Morning sickness

Morning sickness isn’t only unpleasant; it can also damage your teeth. That’s because vomit is highly acidic and can wear down tooth enamel over time, making your teeth more sensitive and vulnerable to decay.

Brushing your teeth shortly after vomiting can cause further damage, as the weakened enamel may be scratched away by the abrasive brushing action.

Instead of brushing straight away, you should rinse your mouth with tap water to remove the acid, then use a fluoride mouthwash or apply toothpaste gently using your finger to help strengthen and protect your teeth. You can then brush normally after an hour.

Some women find that tooth brushing makes them gag during pregnancy. If this happens to you, try changing your toothbrush to one with a smaller head and brush slowly and gently.

Food cravings

Many women find themselves craving certain foods while pregnant. If these cravings are for sugary snacks, satisfying them can increase your risk of tooth decay and other oral health problems, as sugar feeds the bacteria in plaque.

Try to look for sugar-free or low-sugar options as much as possible, especially if you can combine these with tooth-friendly dairy products. Milk, cheese and natural yoghurt are good sources of dietary calcium and other nutrients that help to protect your teeth.

If you do find yourself craving something sweet, try to favour healthier alternatives such as fresh fruit, and make sure you keep up a good oral hygiene routine.

Preparing for your pregnancy

You’re less likely to develop dental problems during pregnancy if you already follow good oral hygiene. This means:

  • brushing your teeth at least twice a day
  • flossing at least once a day
  • using a fluoride mouthwash
  • cutting down on sugary and acidic food and drink
  • having regular dental check-ups.

If you’re planning to get pregnant soon, it’s a good idea to visit your dentist and let them know. They can give you a complete oral health assessment and schedule any treatments before, rather than during your pregnancy.

Your dentist may advise visiting more often than normal during your pregnancy, so they can monitor for conditions such as gingivitis and help reduce the risks for both you and your baby. Dental x-rays are usually avoided during the first trimester, but if they are necessary, precautions will be taken to make sure your baby is protected.

Talk to our dentists in Geraldton

If you’re due for a dental check-up or you want to speak to a dentist about anything, get in touch with our friendly team at Chapman Road Dental Clinic in Geraldton.

Call us on (08) 9964 3577 and ask your health insurance provider about rebate information and what you’re entitled to claim for treatments.

References
[1] Australian Dental Association (ADA). Pregnancy [Online] 2016 [Accessed April 2018] Available from: https://www.ada.org.au/Your-Dental-Health/Children-0-11/Pregnancy
[2] Better Health Channel. Pregnancy and teeth [Online] 2006 [Updated February 2018, accessed April 2018] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/pregnancy-and-teeth

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