Dental Care During Pregnancy
A baby’s teeth start to form during pregnancy. By the time the baby is born, a full set of primary teeth has begun to form underneath the baby’s gums.
During the last three months of pregnancy, the mother provides the minerals needed to calcify the baby’s teeth. These minerals do not come from the mother’s teeth – and there is no truth to the old saying ‘gain a child, lose a tooth’.
The best source of these minerals is from an increased intake of dairy foods (or other calcium-rich foods and drinks) by the mother. A nutritious diet and good dental hygiene during pregnancy will ensure that mothers and baby’s teeth will be healthy and strong.
Gum Care During Pregnancy
Pregnancy Gingivitis (Gum Disease)
The surge in female hormones during pregnancy is associated with an increase in gum disease. Many pregnant women find that their gums bleed easily during brushing because gums are more sensitive to plaque. The effect of this pregnancy gingivitis is first seen when the woman is 12 weeks into her pregnancy, and it may continue through the second and third trimesters.
If pregnancy gingivitis occurs, a visit to the dentist / dental hygienist is recommended. It is best to see your dentist prior to pregnancy so that periodontal health is achieved before pregnancy. As well as careful attention to dental hygiene, it is important to visit the dentist more frequently during pregnancy so that plaque or calculus can be removed by with a professional clean. This will help prevent gingivitis.
Pregnancy Epulis (Swelling of the Gums)
Pregnant women are also at risk of developing a pregnancy epulis, or swelling, on the gums. This is a benign (non-cancerous) growth caused by inflammation that develops when swollen gums become more irritated. A pregnancy epulis may not need any specific treatment, but if it interferes with eating, brushing or flossing, or is unsightly, your dentist may recommend removal. A pregnancy epulis often shrinks once the baby is born. If persistent, it should be removed.
Tooth Decay During Pregnancy
Damage from Stomach Acid
Some women experience morning sickness during pregnancy – to varying degrees. Both nausea and vomiting related to morning sickness can cause acid from the stomach to reflux into the mouth, damaging the teeth due to erosion of the enamel. Use a fluoride mouthrinse to neutralize the acid and protect the teeth. If a mouthrinse is not available, thoroughly rinse the mouth with water. If brushing is difficult due to morning sickness, try using a child-sized brush and avoid frothy toothpaste. Avoid further acid exposure of the teeth by avoiding soft drinks and citrus fruit drinks.
Food Cravings During Pregnancy and Their Effect on Dental Health
Women who have food cravings may eat sweet or sticky foods, and have irregular meals, all of which increase the risk of dental decay. Nuts are a good alternative; they won’t harm the teeth and can reduce the craving.
Taking x-rays is safe for pregnant patients, provided the dental professionals use protective measures such as high speed film, a lead apron and a thyroid collar.
Oral Hygiene During Pregnancy
Coronal scaling, polishing and root planning may be performed at any times as required to maintain oral health. However, routine general dentistry should usually only be done in the second and third trimester of the pregnancy.
Extensive Elective Dental Procedures While Pregnant
These should be postponed until after the delivery. Any treatment should be directed towards controlling disease, maintaining a healthy oral environment and preventing potential problems that could occur later in the pregnancy or during the postpartum period.