I really enjoy visiting with expectant mothers when they come in for their routine check ups. Their are so excited about their upcoming addition to their family. They also have lots of questions and concerns about their dental health and care during pregnancy.
As you might guess, a woman's hormone levels change quite a bit due to their pregnancy. For their mouth this means an increased sensitivity of their gums to the plaque and tartar that accumulates on the teeth. The result is often bleeding, sensitive and swollen gums. Removing the plaque and tartar on the teeth is what is needed and to help prevent this as much as possible I always recommend an increased frequency of dental hygiene appointments ("cleanings") for expectant moms. Of course, meticulous home care ( brushing and flossing) is a must too. A common myth that a woman's teeth become softer and lose calcium during pregnancy is not true. The urge to snack when pregnant (sugary foods especially) will of course lead to an increase in cavities. Morning sickness, (vomiting) results in the very acidic contents of the stomach washing over the teeth. This also softens them. Brushing with toothpaste, which is abrasive, right after throwing up can cause quite a bit of wear. The best way to prevent this is to rinsce with a teaspoon of baking soda in water to neutralize the acid effect in the mouth.
As far as dental treatment is concerned, it is safe to have necessary dental treatment at any time during pregnancy. It is safe to have necessary dental radiographs (X-rays) to diagnose dental problems and use local anaesthetics. Avoiding treatment for oral pain, infection or other acute problems can put an expectant mother at greater risk than that from dental treatment. A good paper discussing this can be read here.
Taking steps to prevent cavities for your new baby is important too. Evidence suggests that babies and young children acquire the cavity causing bacteria from their mothers. That's right, you can pass along the bacteria from your mouth to you child's so to help prevent your new child from getting cavities when their teeth come in, here are a few good tips for the new mother;
- Wipe gums and teeth, that are not large enough to brush, with a wet face cloth or gauze.
- After every feeding, clean the baby’s teeth with an infant toothbrush. Use plain water, not toothpaste, unless your dentist determines there is risk of decay. If so, your dentist will advise you on the appropriate use of toothpaste.
- Do not test bottle temperature by first placing it in your mouth.
- Do not transfer food from your mouth to your baby or infant’s mouth.
- Do not let your baby sleep at the breast or with a bottle of formula or juice.
Making sure you maintain your dental health during pregnancy will ensure a good start for your new baby and you.
Dr Steven Rosenblat