If you're expecting, you're probably taking all the right steps to ensure a healthy pregnancy. With a proper diet, exercise plan and prenatal care from your doctor, you're helping your body adapt to the many changes you're experiencing. And now you're taking it one step further by focusing on your dental health.
Just as dental health is connected to your overall health, dental care is important to the health of your fetus. It's extremely important to take care of your teeth during pregnancy, as some dental problems can increase the risk of complications. Your changing body also contributes to the state of your dental health, sometimes leading to dental conditions you may not normally be prone to. Becoming aware of how dental health affects your pregnancy -- and vice versa -- can make this time in your life a little easier.
Unfortunately, the changes pregnant women go through may put them at higher risk for dental problems. Variations in hormone levels cause an increase in blood flow, bringing more blood to the gums. This feeds the dental plaque bacteria that promote tooth decay and gum disease. So once you're expecting a baby, you could also expect one of the following periodontal problems:
Pregnancy Gingivitis -- A common dental problem during pregnancy, gingivitis causes red and swollen gums, and women may experience tenderness and bleeding. Pregnancy gingivitis affects about 50% of pregnant women, but by stepping up your oral hygiene routine, you'll reduce the chances of becoming a statistic.
Pregnancy Tumors -- A result of the irritation caused by gingivitis and dental plaque, pregnancy tumors are noncancerous growths found on the gums. These harmless growths often subside after giving birth, but if you have pain or other concerns, you'll benefit from seeing a dentist.
Periodontal Disease -- Pregnancy gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease, an infection that destroys the gums and poses a risk for pregnant women. If the infection enters the bloodstream, your body produces chemicals to fight it off, which may induce early labor. Not only have studies connected gum disease to low birth weight and prematurity, but dental infections have also been linked to miscarriage.
Now that you're paying more attention to your gums, you'll be ready to battle any problems that might arise. If you do develop any of these conditions, your dentist may recommend gum disease treatment to maintain your gums and improve your dental health during your pregnancy.
Your prenatal care should also include spending a little more time on your oral hygiene regimen. Brush thoroughly at least twice a day -- after every meal if possible. And floss daily to remove dental plaque.
If you suffer from morning sickness, remember to rinse out your mouth with water after vomiting. This neutralizes the stomach acid that can destroy tooth enamel. If you can, wait a bit before eating, drinking or brushing your teeth. Acidic foods and some abrasive materials in toothpaste can further damage teeth that are weakened by frequent vomiting.
Your diet is also incredibly important to your dental health during your pregnancy. Since baby teeth form in utero, it's essential that you stay away from sugary snacks and get plenty of calcium. Vitamins B12 and C are also good for dental health. Between eating well and at-home care, you'll decrease your chances of experiencing dental problems during your pregnancy.
If you're planning to get pregnant, consider having your teeth cleaned and any restorative dental treatment done first. If you are already pregnant, be sure to tell your dentist before getting any work done. You should also have a dental checkup at least once during the pregnancy. Although dental cleanings aren't harmful, it's recommended that expecting mothers get them done during the second trimester to reduce the risk of complications.
It's best to postpone dental work during the first and third trimesters as well, as these are critical periods for the baby's development. Your dentist will let you know what dental treatments can be performed during the second trimester, but more complicated procedures will probably be postponed, if possible. Unnecessary treatments, such as cosmetic dental work, should be avoided altogether.
If you do have a dental problem or need an emergency dentist, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as you can. Your dentist will look for signs of infection and determine the need for treatment. Dental X-rays are usually avoided during pregnancy, but if photos are necessary, your dentist will take extra precautions to protect your baby.
Expecting a baby is a very exciting time, and you're already on the right path by staying on top of your dental health. With the proper dental care measures, you'll increase your chances of having a smoother pregnancy, full-term delivery and healthy baby. If you don't have a dentist, we can help!