Maintaining a healthy mouth is positively linked to having a healthy baby!
Congratulations on this exciting and busy time in your life! There is so much to think about right now – nutrition, baby clothes, pregnancy books, how to pay for college! – but don’t forget about your teeth and gums. It may be easy to overlook your mouth when you’re thinking about your growing belly, but it’s equally important to maintain a healthy mouth while you’re maintaining a healthy body. Brushing and flossing contributes to your overall health, and if your mouth is healthy, it’s more likely that your baby’s mouth will be healthy.
Your body and mouth will experience many changes during pregnancy. Due to the increase in hormones during pregnancy, particularly an increase in estrogen and progesterone, your gums are more prone to bacterial accumulation. This accumulation can lead to gingivitis, which presents itself as painful, red-swollen gums that may bleed, and generally begins to surface as early as the second month. Pregnancy gingivitis, if left untreated, can progress to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease. The good news is that routine dental treatment can be performed safely at any time during pregnancy so you can avoid this with proper care!
Your dental health also plays an important role in your ability to deliver a full-term, healthy weight baby. Research suggests a link between pre-term, low birth weight babies and gingivitis because excessive bacteria can enter the bloodstream through your gums. If this happens, the bacteria can travel to the uterus, triggering the production of the chemical prostaglandins, which is suspected to induce premature labor. Furthermore, untreated dental disease can lead to pain, infections and unnecessary exposure to medications, any of which could harm the developing fetus. Poor oral health can also affect the nutritional intake of expectant mothers, which is essential for fetal growth and survival.
Pregnant women are also at risk for developing pregnancy tumors, which are inflammatory, non-cancerous growths that develop when swollen gums become irritated. Normally, the tumors are left alone and usually shrink on their own after the baby’s birth, but if a tumor is uncomfortable and interferes with chewing, brushing or flossing, the dentist may decide to remove it.
In addition to examining for oral disease, dentists may notice dental erosion in pregnant women, due to increased acid in the mouth following morning sickness. To neutralize this acid, pregnant women should rinse their mouth with a tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in a cup of water. The teeth should be brushed only after the mouth has been rinsed and the acid has been neutralized to prevent further damage to the enamel.
The simple solution to preventing problems is to visit your dentist before you plan to become pregnant or if you believe you’re pregnant. The dentist will perform an exam, thoroughly check your teeth and gums, and have a hygienist clean your teeth. Pregnant women can also take healthy oral care steps at home and include brushing with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and after each meal when possible; flossing thoroughly each day; rinsing her mouth after morning sickness; and enjoying good nutrition (particularly plenty of Vitamin C and B12) that will help keep the oral cavity strong and healthy. Good daily care is vital in controlling plaque, which will also reduce gum irritation and decrease the likelihood of pregnancy tumors.
If you are already pregnant, it’s not too late! You can visit the dentist during your second trimester. If you have any of the above conditions, it is safe to seek treatment while you are pregnant. In most cases, a dental cleaning will take care of the disease as well as alleviate the painful symptoms. Your dentist will also be able to gauge the effectiveness of your oral hygiene and give you helpful tips for at-home care.
To ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, get your dentist involved! Dentists have the ability to maintain the oral health of expectant mothers by treating the dental findings that are common during pregnancy and monitor the changes in your mouth. They will ensure great oral care so you have the happiest and healthiest pregnancy and baby! Congratulations, again!