Pregnancy: Why oral hygiene matters for you and baby

By: Dental Holistix

Congratulations, you’re pregnant! Right from the start, your pregnancy hormones have been hard at work orchestrating your little one’s development. As early as six or seven weeks, your baby will have a beating heart, pair of lungs, a head, and even start growing limbs. The same miracle-working pregnancy hormones—oestrogen and progesterone—that are at play during your baby’s development can also impact your oral health and that of your baby.

When you are pregnant, your gums can get more sensitive and become prone to inflammation. If your gums were already inflamed, this can worsen, leading to bone loss around the teeth. For these reasons, cleaning your teeth thoroughly, paying attention to what you eat, and ensuring regular dental checkups and professional hygiene treatment, can help your mouth to remain healthy, and give your baby a headstart when it comes to their oral health.

Poor oral hygiene during pregnancy may lead to infections, tooth decay, and more. In some cases, it may even lead to premature delivery and affect a child’s early development and oral health. If you take care of your teeth and gums before and during pregnancy, you are less likely to experience the oral health issues associated with pregnancy.

Here are some of the common pregnancy-related oral health conditions to be aware of.

Gum inflammation or gingivitis

Your gums may become more sensitive to bacterial infections during your pregnancy when higher levels of the pregnancy hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, affect your immune system. Ever wondered about the sticky film you feel when you run your tongue over your teeth? It’s called ‘bacterial plaque’ and is quite normal. It develops when bacteria in your mouth interact with sugars and starches. Problems arise when plaque builds up, hardens and forms tartar (also known as calculus). This can cause gum inflammation or gingivitis. In pregnant women, this issue may intensify, particularly during the second to eighth months of pregnancy, leading to swelling and bleeding of the gums.

Women with healthy gums before pregnancy can prevent pregnancy gingivitis with continued good oral care. However, with poor oral hygiene, pregnancy gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a more severe gum disease.

The best way to avoid pregnancy-related gum disease is to practice good oral hygiene at home with regular brushing and flossing and to visit your dental professional for hygiene care.

Loss of enamel or dental erosion

During pregnancy, you may experience greater nausea and vomiting due to morning sickness or increased stomach acid reflux, and this can frequently impact teeth. Our teeth are covered by a hard, protective layer called enamel, and when stomach acids present in vomiting or reflux, it can dissolve or soften tooth enamel.

Reducing or eliminating acidic drinks from your diet like fruit juices or carbonated beverages can help minimize enamel erosion. Rinsing your mouth with water immediately after vomiting can also help, and avoid brushing your teeth, wait 40mins. Additionally Alkaline mouthwashes can help to neutralise acids in the mouth.

Pregnancy granuloma

Sometimes during pregnancy, you may notice a small red growth on your gums. It is often located between your teeth. This is known as a pregnancy granuloma. These nodules are not cancerous and can be painless; however, sometimes they may bleed or turn into an ulcer. They are mainly caused due to gum inflammation and poor oral hygiene, and pregnancy hormones can aggravate the condition.

Most of the time, these nodules go away on their own after delivery; however if they do remain, you may need to get them professionally removed, along with the surrounding plaque and calculus, and pay greater attention to oral hygiene at home.

Is it safe to visit the dentist when pregnant?

Yes, it is absolutely safe to visit your dentist when pregnant. In fact, it’s necessary.

Scheduling a dental exam before you plan to get pregnant can help detect any potential issues early and prevent them from progressing into more severe conditions. Even after you are pregnant, it is advisable to visit your dentist to ensure your oral health is on track.

The New Zealand Dental Association and the Australian Dental Association, among others, affirm that it is safe to get dental X-rays during pregnancy. The radiation dose is extremely minimal and concentrated near your mouth. The rest of your body can additionally be covered with a protective lead shield designed to keep X-rays out as an added protection. Local anaesthesia for routine dental procedures like fillings, tooth extraction, or root canal is also absolutely safe.

However, it is recommended that pregnant women avoid taking any medications that act systemically like sedatives, certain antibiotics, and certain pain medications. This emphasises the need to treat any dental issues while they are small before they progress into something more serious. If you have a dental emergency, do not wait to get help. Removing severely infected or broken teeth is better for you and your baby than leaving them in your mouth.

As an aside, some pregnant women generally opt to defer longer elective dental procedures until after the baby arrives because it may be too uncomfortable to lie back on the chair for long periods.

As a new mum-to-be, we know that your priority is to take good care of your health and that of your baby. Scheduling ultrasounds and consultations with your doctor or midwife is a standard practice when you are pregnant; however, remember to check with a dentist to ensure your oral health is on track as well.

Book in with Dental Holistix today.

Book in with our hygienist Kara Williams

Kara has a special interest in gum health and is committed to providing the most current and effective treatment strategies available today. Her treatments are gentle, thorough and effective and she’ll get your mouth in its best shape in no time.

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