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With all the excitement of a pregnancy, taking care of your teeth may not be at the top of your list of things to think about. However, good dental care is very important for keeping you and your baby healthy during this special time. Here’s what to expect (tooth-wise) when you’re expecting.
How Does Pregnancy Affect My Dental Health?
Hormonal changes brought on by pregnancy can make an expecting mom more susceptible to gum disease—which in turn can affect the health of her baby. Many women don’t realize that gum disease affects not just your mouth but your whole body and the development of your baby. Untreated gum disease can contribute to premature birth and low birth weight. So good dental care—at home and in your dentist’s office—is more important than ever.
Is It Safe To See The Dentist During Pregnancy?
While most dental work can be done safely at any time during pregnancy, some experts recommend rescheduling routine appointments until the second trimester to be on the safe side. Also, it’s best to avoid dental X-rays during pregnancy unless it’s an emergency. But emergency or otherwise essential X-rays can be done safely during pregnancy—just be sure to let your dentist know you’re pregnant before this (or any other) dental procedure so he or she can use extra caution and modify recommended treatments or medications. Even if you are in the early stages of pregnancy (or think you might be pregnant) it’s a good idea to let your dentist know.
Elective procedures (like whitening) should be postponed until after your baby is born but don’t skip your regular checkups. In fact, they’re even more important because of the increased risk of gum disease. Pay attention to any changes in your gums during pregnancy. If you notice bleeding or any other issues, let your dentist know as soon as possible. Pregnant women can also be more susceptible to cavities, according to the American Dental Association, because of increased carbohydrate consumption. So it’s important not to skip your dental check-ups. If you don’t have a check-up scheduled, getting into the dentist’s chair during the second trimester is a good idea, even if you’re not experiencing any symptoms of tooth decay or gum disease. If you do find that you need a filling or another minor procedure, local anesthetics have been proven safe during pregnancy.
How Can I Take Care Of Teeth And Gums At Home During Pregnancy?
Great dental hygiene and healthy eating habits at home are also key. Brush twice a day and floss at least once a day. Use a fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse recommended by the ADA. Some professionals recommend chewing gum sweetened with xylitol. This natural, non-sugar sweetener (made from hardwoods or corn cobs) can help decrease the amount of plaque on your teeth. Xylitol gum is available at health food stores and many drugstores (artificial sweeteners are not recommended).
Vomiting related to morning sickness can also be a problem since frequent vomiting can damage tooth enamel. Rinsing with water and baking soda can help reduce the effects of stomach acid on your teeth.
What Foods Should I Eat During Pregnancy for Good Dental Health?
Eat healthy! This is a no-brainer and a good practice all the time, but it’s absolutely essential during pregnancy. Your baby’s teeth are developing in utero, and you’re helping ensure his or her healthy teeth down the road as well as taking care of your own teeth and gums. Dairy products are an important source of protein, calcium and Vitamin D, all of which are essential during pregnancy. Also seek out fruits and vegetables high in vitamins A and C. Try to avoid going overboard on sugary snacks—even if you’re craving sweets. And soft drinks—regular or low calorie—are a no-no—both for dental and overall good health.
A full check up after delivery is a good idea to make sure that your mouth is in good shape and that any hormone-related gum disease can be addressed. You can also start caring for baby’s gums a few days after birth, by gently cleaning gums with a gauze pad or washcloth. It’s a good habit to get into and will help pave the way for good oral hygiene for years to come.
As your dentist can confirm, mouth health plays a big role in your overall health at any stage of life. Problems with your teeth and gums can lead to bigger problems if left untreated. This is even more true during pregnancy, when you need to focus on your baby’s health and development as well as your own. Taking good care of your mouth during pregnancy (both at home and at your dentist’s office) can have positive repercussions for your baby throughout his or her life.