Hormone changes during pregnancy do a lot more than affect your moods and cause you to have cravings. They can also cause damage in your mouth, like causing gum disease. This, in turn, can affect your baby, both in terms of its size at birth and its chances of being premature.
When you’re pregnant, oral care becomes a vital part of your health management program and should be high on the to-do list. It involves following a good oral hygiene programme; being alert to any changes in your mouth; and keeping contact with your dentist.
What are the major risks?
Pregnancy Gingivitis is the most common gum problem, causing gums to become red and inflamed, and possibly leading to bleeding if you aren’t careful when you brush your teeth. Many women get it at some stage during pregnancy, and usually it will disappear within six months of the birth, if you are careful to maintain good oral hygiene. However, if it can lead to serious periodontal gum disease so should be checked.
Pregnancy tumours usually only affect about one in 10 pregnant women. Benign and usually painless, these red or purple growths normally disappear after the birth. Where they could become a problem is if they start causing pain or bleeding. Then it might be necessary for them to be removed surgically.
Gingival enlargement is the most uncomfortable and disfiguring. Fortunately it is also the least common. The gums become larger and can overlap, or even cover the teeth completely.
How you can help yourself
In addition to maintaining contact with your dentist, there are other things you can do yourself to make sure all’s well:
- If morning sickness is a problem, be sure to rinse your mouth with water after vomiting, and consider changing your toothpaste for one with a fairly neutral taste in case your current one contributes to your feelings of nausea.
- Brush for two minutes, twice a day, using a soft brush and remembering to be gentle with your teeth. Don’t forget to floss.
- Be alert at all times for any changes in your mouth, particularly in your gums.
- Follow a good diet. Avoid sugary and acidic foods which contribute to acid build-up and tooth decay, and try to include dairy products like yoghurt and cheese so baby benefits from them while the bones, teeth and gums are developing.
How your dentist can help
- Don’t miss regular check-ups during pregnancy. They will enable your dentist to catch potential problems like gum disease early.
- Tell your dentist you’re pregnant, and ask for advice in terms of self-care, oral hygiene and any special precautions. Also be sure to say what medications you are currently taking, including all prescription drugs, prenatal vitamins or other supplements. Also tell your dentist about any medical conditions you have, or specific medical advice you’ve been given by your health care practitioner.
- Go ahead with any routine dental care your dentist recommends, but if you can, delay any elective procedures until after baby is born. It’s also best to avoid dental X-Rays where possible even though X-Rays are a good deal safer now than they were in the old days. If X-Rays can’t be delayed, rest assured your dentist will take special steps to ensure they don’t harm you or your unborn child, including making sure your abdomen and thyroid are well shielded.