Pregnancy creates many changes, your dental health is one of them.
Regular visits to the dentist both before, and during pregnancy, are recommended to ensure that your gums and teeth are healthy… ready to support your body and baby during pregnancy.
As many women experience bleeding gums during pregnancy, visiting your dentist regularly for a hygiene appointment including a scale and clean is imperative to your overall health.
If you need treatment beyond a hygiene visit, such as fillings or more complex work, this can usually be postponed until after pregnancy. However, if there is dental care that a pregnant woman needs and treatment cannot wait, we can ensure it is done with minimal risk.
Consultation with a woman’s physician also helps minimize risks.
In a NSW program for new mums, Oral Health Promotion Officer Mrs Jennifer Lang mentions:
“It is well documented that the tooth decay in early childhood often results from an infected mother passing on the bacteria during normal family contact – feeding, sharing utensils and dummy usage,”
“Therefore poor maternal oral health increases the risk of babies developing early childhood tooth decay.
“The research shows that all pregnant women should receive a comprehensive oral health evaluation because poor maternal oral health may affect pregnancy outcomes – such as pre-term birth and low birth weight babies, and the general health of the woman and her baby.”
A dental exam and routine hygiene care (cleaning) is important so that the irritants (plaque and calculus) that lead to gingival inflammation and cavities, can be removed. Other dental treatment is usually postponed until after the pregnancy, and more pressing treatment is delayed until the second trimester, if possible.
Routine hygiene care again is advisable. Necessary dental treatment is relatively safe and comfortable for the woman at this stage. From 4 months, your babies teeth (and bones) start to form.
If needed, due to inflammation or swelling of the gums, another hygiene appointment may be appropriate, but early in this trimester is the best time. Appointments are kept short as the woman is usually uncomfortable reclining in the dental chair. Calcium intake is particularly important during this time.
During pregnancy your hormonal balance is altered and your gums may be more easily irritated by dental plaque. They may become inflamed and bleed.
New research is showing that poor dental health may be linked to premature birth, so keeping your teeth and gums healthy is important during pregnancy.
- It is important to care for your teeth and gums before pregnancy.
- Dental plaque (bacteria, saliva and food remnants) needs to be cleaned from the teeth and gum-line by brushing twice daily and flossing regularly. Use a small, soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
- It may be more comfortable for you to complete any dental treatment before pregnancy. You may have morning sickness or become tired as your pregnancy progresses.
- If you are pregnant or suspect that you are, it is important to tell your dental professional when you visit.
- During your pregnancy, ask your dental professional to check your gums and advise you how to care for them.
- Dentists and doctors are careful in prescribing medicines to pregnant woman and advise only those which are really needed. Some medicines such as tetracycline antibiotics can affect your baby’s developing teeth.
You may experience morning sickness (nausea and vomiting) during the first term of your pregnancy.
The stomach contents are acidic and can coat the teeth when you vomit. This acid can cause dental erosion by dissolving tooth enamel.
- To avoid damage to your teeth after vomiting or gastric reflux don’t brush your teeth for at least an hour after vomiting.
- Rinse your mouth with water after you vomit to help wash the acid away.
- Smear some fluoride toothpaste on your teeth to refresh your mouth and help strengthen enamel.
- “Tooth Mousse” is also a great lactose free way to remineralise teeth. It contains bioactive calcium and phosphate in the form of casein phosphopeptide derived from cows milk helps not only with patients at high risk from decay but also the repair/remineralisation of damaged enamel.
- To avoid plaque build up thoroughly clean your teeth and gums twice a day. Brush in the morning after breakfast and last thing at night before going to sleep.
- Some pregnant women find they gag while brushing their teeth. If brushing makes you feel sick try using a soft small headed toothbrush designed for children. Concentrate on your breathing as you clean your back teeth.
- Brushing without toothpaste may help. Then smear fluoride toothpaste over your teeth after brushing and don’t rinse it off. Return to brushing with fluoride toothpaste as soon as possible.
- Fluoride strengthens the teeth andhelps to prevent decay.
- Fluoride in toothpaste or water does not harm a developing baby.
- If possible dental x-rays should be avoided during pregnancy. If your dental professional considers it essential for you to have an x-ray, special care and protection will be taken. We use digital xray sensors which uses a fraction of the strength of traditional xrays.
- Frequent sugary or acidic snacks and drinks increase the risk of dental carries (decay) and erosion.
- Choose a wide variety of snacks which are low in sugar, fat and salt, and high in fibre.
- Drink tap water.
- Rinse your mouth with tap water between meals.
- Calcium is very important for your baby’s teeth and bones.
- From four months your baby’s teeth and bones begin to calcify. The calcium and phosphorus needed comes from what you eat, and if necessary from your bones. These minerals do not come from your teeth.
- From 7 months your baby needs even more calcium and phosphorous.
- These minerals are best obtained by you eating calcium rich foods:
- Milk and milk products are sources of calcium. Choose those that are low in fat and sugar.
- If you don’t drink milk or eat dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt, choose other products that are high in calcium (such as soy milk with added calcium). See your doctor or a dietician for advice. They may recommend calcium supplements.
The recommended daily intake of calcium for a pregnant or breastfeeding woman over the age of 18 is 1000mg.
- The following foods are high in calcium.
Choosing 4 serves of these foods will provide the daily amount of calcium you need:
- ½ cup spinach – 100mg
- 100g pink salmon with bones – 300mg
- 1 glass (250ml) reduced fat milk – 360mg calcium
- 1 tub (200g) non-fat or skim yoghurt – 360mg
- 3cm cube (30g) reduced fat cheese – 260mg
- Babies are born with no decay causing bacteria (germs) in their mouth.
- Everybody except newborns have varying levels of decay causing bacteria in their mouth.
- The bacteria are passed from person to person.
- Decay causing bacteria are passed to the baby by their carers and family through kissing, using the same spoon when eating or by cleaning the dummy in their own mouth. Babies’ teeth are at risk from these bacteria from the time the teeth first appear.
- Carers, especially mothers, can lower the amount of bacteria passed to their baby by keeping their own teeth and mouth healthy. Remember to brush your teeth after breakfast and before bedtime, floss regularly, choose healthy snacks, limit how often you eat sugary food, drink tap water and have a dental check up.
- It is important to have your own decay treated so you will have lower levels of bacteria in your mouth.
- Speak with your dental professional about whether you need treatment during your pregnancy.
- You may be more comfortable when lying back in the dental chair, with your right hip raised using a pillow or towel.