Pregnancy and dental care | Taking good care of your teeth and gums is very important
During pregnancy, women experience many changes, including changes in the oral cavity that can adversely affect their dental health. It is, therefore, very important that pregnant women are made aware of these changes, and positive oral-health practices are reinforced.
It's important for you to take good care of your teeth and gums while pregnant. Pregnancy causes hormonal changes that increase the risk of developing gum disease, cavities, pregnancy gingivitis, pregnancy tumor (pyogenic granuloma), and tooth erosion, all of which can in turn affect the health of your unborn baby.
Professional dental cleaning is a vital component of preventive oral health care. However, up to 50 per cent of pregnant women do not have their teeth cleaned during pregnancy, and of those who have a dental problem, only 15 per cent see a dentist.
There are numerous reasons for this, such as numerous myths, the main one being that you cannot see a dentist while pregnant. I have had quite a few pregnant patients come to me with their jaw swollen from a cavity, stating that they cannot see the dentist, asking me to fix it.
So let me first assure you: Professional oral health care is safe for both you and your developing foetus throughout the entire duration of your pregnancy.
TIPS FOR GOOD ORAL HEALTH
Here are some tips to help you maintain good oral health before, during, and after pregnancy.
As the popular saying goes, prevention better than cure. It is encouraged to make a dental appointment before getting pregnant. This allows for your teeth to be professionally cleaned, and the gum tissue to be carefully examined so any oral-health problems can be treated in advance of your pregnancy.
- Before you have your dental appointment, inform your obstetrician and ensure that there aren't any special precautions/instructions for you to share with your dentist.
- At the time of your visit, let your dentist know that you are pregnant, and share any specific medical advice your doctor has given you.
- Let your dentist know the names and doses of all the medication you are taking, including those prescribed by your obstetrician, as well as your prenatal vitamins.
All of this is important as your dentist may need to change your treatment plan based on this information.
- Routine dental care such as a cleaning can be done at any time during your pregnancy, as well as any urgent procedure, such as an extraction. All elective dental procedures, such as teeth whitening, however, should be postponed until after the delivery.
- Dental X-rays can be done during pregnancy. Advances in technology have made X-rays much safer today than in past decades.
- Pay particular attention to any changes in your gums during pregnancy. If you notice any tenderness, bleeding or gum swelling at any time during your pregnancy, talk with your dentist as soon as possible.
- Good oral hygiene is also important as it helps to prevent and also reduce oral-health problems.
- Another common problem many pregnant women face, that can affect their oral health is vomiting, commonly called "morning sickness".
Vomiting from morning sickness, as well as acid reflux, increases the acidity in the mouth and can lead to tooth erosion and cavity formation.
If morning sickness is making you unable to brush your teeth, consider changing to a bland-tasting toothpaste during pregnancy. Your dentist can recommend one for you.
Rinsing with one teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in a cup of water following vomiting will help to neutralise the acid. Rinsing your mouth out with water or mouthwash after an episode of vomiting can also be very helpful.
- Diet is very important. We know pregnancy comes with cravings, and sweet cravings are common during pregnancy. However, avoid sugary snacks!
The more frequently you snack, the more likely you are to develop tooth decay.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is not only for you, but also for your baby and their developing teeth. Your baby's first teeth begin to develop about three months into pregnancy. Diets containing dairy products, cheese, and yogurt are a good source of these essential minerals and are good for baby's developing teeth, gums, and bones.
After delivering your baby, you can return to regular scheduled dental visits. However, if you experienced any gum or other dental problems during your pregnancy, see your dentist soon after delivery to have your periodontal health evaluated to ensure resolution.
So, to the expectant mothers out there, you have no need to be suffering with a toothache for the duration of your pregnancy. It is perfectly safe and very much advised to visit your dentist and have it professionally taken care of.
- Dr Rhonda Reeves is the obstetrician/gynaecologist at Southdale Medical, Dental and Gynae Centre at Shop 6, Southdale Plaza. For further information, visit, or contact 9201011 or 346-3243. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.