Pregnancy comes with many new responsibilities for a woman, and oral hygiene is not one that should be forgotten or taken lightly. Neglecting oral hygiene during pregnancy can have severe consequences such a preterm birth and lower birth weight. It can also have negative consequences once your baby is here. A baby gets most of its bacteria from their mother during their first 6 months of life. How you take care of your mouth now, can affect your child’s dental health for years to come. However, taking the proper precautions can eliminate any risk and can keep you and your baby healthy.
If You’re Pregnant, You’re More Susceptible to Gum Disease
There is one main reason why pregnant women are more susceptible (and women in general) to gum disease; hormones. During pregnancy you have a higher level of progesterone, and this particular hormone can cause gum disease any time between the second and eighth month of pregnancy. Hormones not only effect the blood flow to the gum tissue, but the body’s response to toxins from the resulting plaque build up.
The increased blood in the gum tissue brought about by hormonal changes cause the gums to swell and trap food. There are many ways to keep your mouth healthy for you and your baby during pregnancy. The best way is to practice good oral hygiene by brushing two times per day and flossing daily. Brushing and flossing work together to eliminate the bacteria that can be dangerous for you and your baby.
Flossing – Your First Defense Against Bacteria
Flossing is extremely important because it helps rid the food stuck not only between teeth but along the gum line. If left undisturbed this bacteria can build up and cause gum disease. It’s also important to eat a well balanced diet, and limit between-meal snacks. When you need a snack, choose one that is low in sugar, like carrot sticks or unsweetened yogurt. It is also ideal to choose water over juice.
Keeping your dental appointments up to date is equally as important as your care at home. Your dentist might even recommend more frequent dental cleanings during pregnancy to help reduce your risk of developing gingivitis. In the event that you develop gingivitis, your dentist may advise to do scaling and root planing to rid your mouth of the excess bacteria. Some signs of gingivitis to watch for are swollen, red or bleeding gums and tenderness. You should also tell your dentist about any medications you are taking, including prenatal vitamins, and any medical advice given to you by your obstetrician so that your dentist can derive the best treatment plan for you.
During pregnancy, your dentist will avoid unnecessary dental work. We try to suggest making sure your x-rays are up to date if possible before pregnancy. This way, any dental problems can, ideally, be discovered and addressed without interfering with your baby. Any non emergent dental care and cosmetic procedures will be taken care of after your baby is born eliminating all risk to your baby. This includes teeth whitening.
If there is necessary dental work, the second trimester is the safest time to have it done.
The changes pregnancy causes to a woman’s body are vast, and often time’s dental care can be overlooked even though it is of great importance. Taking the time to take care of your oral hygiene, especially flossing and keeping regular visits, will help keep you and your baby healthy.