Mothers take special care of their health while they are pregnant for the sake of their unborn child. This may look like eating a balanced diet, taking prenatal vitamins, or exercising. But did you know that dental health could also affect the health of unborn children?
Risks of Poor Dental Health to Your Unborn Child
We don’t have to tell you that a woman’s hormones change dramatically during pregnancy. However, you may not be aware that these hormonal changes can cause oral health issues…and that these oral health issues could impact both mother and baby.
Between months two and eight of pregnancy, a woman’s heightened progesterone levels can cause gingivitis or pregnancy tumors.
Symptoms of gingivitis include swollen or tender gums, bleeding or receding gums, red gums, and bad breath. Gingivitis during pregnancy is very common: 65-70% of pregnant women have gingivitis. Gingivitis can—if left untreated—progress to periodontitis, a more advanced gum disease, which has been associated with preterm birth or low birth rate, but this correlation is not fully understood. The hormonal change of the body during pregnancy can make gingivitis worse, and it is sometimes recommended to have an extra checkup to ensure good oral health during pregnancy.
Pregnancy tumors—which are non-cancerous swellings that occur on the gums—are caused by a combination of progesterone and calculus build-up. Most of these tumors will resolve on their own after the birth of your child, though your dentist may recommend surgery or other treatment if that is not the case.
Is it Safe to See a Dentist While Pregnant?
Regular cleanings and preventive dentistry are not only safe for expectant moms, but recommended!
Treatments like crowns and cavity fillings can be done if needed, though it is recommended that these services be performed during the second trimester—during the third trimester, it can be uncomfortable for pregnant women to lie on their backs for extended periods of time.
Dental treatments that require medications or x-rays are oftentimes postponed until after child birth, when possible. However, emergencies happen. According to the American Dental Association, x-rays are safe for pregnant women as long as the proper shielding is used, and many numbing agents and antibiotics are rated ‘Category B’ for safety during pregnancy.
Cosmetic dentistry, such as teeth whitening, should be avoided until after the child is born.
How to Ensure Good Dental Health
Know that the benefits of good dental health begin when your baby has not yet been born. Ensure good overall health—at least in part—by taking care of your dental health.
Ensure good oral health for yourself during pregnancy:
- Brush twice a day (for two minutes) with fluoride toothpaste, and floss every day
- Use a dentist-recommended mouthwash to rinse out bacteria and control plaque
- Eat healthy foods
- Snack on food that is low in sugar, and that is nutritious (such as fruits and vegetables, cheese, and yogurt)
- Visit your dentist (routine dental checkups are safe during pregnancy)
- Notify your dentist that you are pregnant and if you’ve noticed any changes in your dental health
Ensure good oral health for your child:
- Avoid filling bottles with sweetened drinks, like fruit juice or soft drinks
- Avoid putting your baby to bed with a bottle, whether it’s with breast milk or formula milk—it can decay their teeth
- Use clean pacifiers; avoid dipping them in anything sugary
- Avoid sharing the same utensils as the baby as it can cause tooth decay by bacteria being passed from mother to baby
- Keep your baby’s gums clean
How to Clean Your Baby’s Mouth
You must clean your baby’s mouth twice a day to make sure that bacteria does not build up in their mouth. Here is how to do that:
- Lay the baby down in your lap and hold their head close to your chest so you can see their mouth
- Use a damp washcloth or soft towel to gently wipe the baby’s gums
- Use a toothbrush when teeth begin to appear, which normally happens when the baby is around 6 months old. You want to make sure you use a dentist-approved soft-bristle infant-sized toothbrush, and a small amount of toothpaste.
- Try to gently clean their tongue with a soft cloth dipped in lukewarm water.
Dental hygiene is important for everyone, but to-be and new moms should take special consideration of their oral health. If you have more questions about dentistry during pregnancy, contact Temple Family Dentistry using the brief form below: