Congratulations on this exciting and busy time of your life! You have so much to think about during pregnancy but don't forget about your teeth and gums. It may be easy to overlook your mouth, but all the changing hormone levels that occur with pregnancy can actually make some dental problems worse. Brushing and flossing contributes to your overall health, too, and if your mouth is healthy, it's more likely that your baby's mouth will be healthy.
See your dentist
It's important to continue to see your dentist during pregnancy for oral examinations and professional teeth cleanings. Make sure to tell your dentist that you are pregnant and about any changes you have noticed in your oral health. Good daily care is vital. That means always brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, cleaning between your teeth once a day, eating a balanced diet and limiting between-meal snacks.
To assist you in making healthy eating choices, the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Policy Center has compiled a list of tips to follow during pregnancy that can be found here.
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in all water sources, including oceans, lakes and rivers. Research shows that fluoride helps prevent cavities in children and adults by making teeth more resistant to the acid attacks that cause cavities. Fluoride is nature's cavity fighter, helping repair the early stages of tooth decay even before the decay can be seen.
There are two ways that you can benefit from fluoride: topically and systemically.
Topical fluoride is the type of fluoride you receive at the dental office or when you use dental products such as toothpastes or mouth rinses. Systemic fluoride is ingested, usually through a public water supply, which in the United States applies to nearly 74 percent of the population. While teeth are forming under the gums, the fluoride taken in largely from drinking water and other beverages strengthens tooth enamel making it stronger and more resistant to cavities. This provides what is called a "systemic" benefit.
After teeth erupt, fluoride helps rebuild (remineralize) weakened tooth enamel and reverse early signs of tooth decay. When you brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, or use other fluoride dental products, you are providing a "topical" benefit because the fluoride is applied to the surface of your teeth.
In addition, drinking fluoridated water and other fluoridated beverages continues to provide a topical benefit because it becomes part of your saliva, constantly bathing the teeth and helping to rebuild weakened tooth enamel. The maximum reduction in tooth decay occurs when fluoride is available systemically and topically. Studies show that community water fluoridation, the addition of fluoride to water to a recommended level for preventing tooth decay, prevents at least 25 percent of tooth decay in children and adults. In fact, community water fluoridation is noted as the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proclaimed community water fluoridation as "one of 10 great public health achievements."
The American Dental Association and more than 100 other national and international organizations recognize the public health benefits of fluoridated water in preventing tooth decay.
Nutrition tips for pregnancy
Did you know that a baby's teeth begin to develop between the third and sixth months of pregnancy? That's why making smart food choices now can help set your child up to be Mouth Healthy for Life. During your pregnancy a sufficient quantity of nutrients especially vitamins A, C, and D, protein, calcium and phosphorous are needed.
To assist you in making healthy eating choices, the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Policy Center has compiled this list of tips to follow during pregnancy:
- Eat a variety of healthy foods, such as fruits; vegetables; whole-grain products such as cereals, breads or crackers; and dairy products like milk, cheese, cottage cheese or unsweetened yogurt.
- Eat fewer foods high in sugar, including candy, cookies, cake, and dried fruit; and drink fewer beverages high in sugar, including juice, fruit-flavored drinks, or soft drinks.
- For snacks, choose foods low in sugar such as fruits, vegetables, cheese and unsweetened yogurt.
- Read food labels so you can choose foods lower in sugar.
- If you have trouble with nausea, try eating small amounts of healthy foods throughout the day.
- Drink water or milk instead of juice, fruit-flavored drinks or soft drinks.
- Drink water throughout the day, especially between meals and snacks. Drink fluoridated water (via a community fluoridated water source) or if you prefer bottled water, drink water that contains fluoride.
- To reduce the risk of birth defects, get 600 micrograms of folic acid each day throughout your pregnancy. Take a dietary supplement of folic acid and eat foods high in folate and foods fortified with folic acids, including:
- Asparagus, broccoli and leafy green vegetables such as lettuce and spinach
- Legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
- Papaya, tomato juice, oranges or orange juice, strawberries, cantaloupe and bananas
- Grain products fortified with folic acid (breads, cereals, cornmeal, flour, pasta, white rice.)
For more information about nutrition during pregnancy, including food safety risks, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Being pregnant comes with many responsibilities and oral hygiene is no exception. For most women, routine dental visits are safe during pregnancy, but let your dental office know what month you are in when you make your appointment. If yours is a high-risk pregnancy or you have some other medical condition, your dentist and your physician may recommend that treatment be postponed. Be sure to let your dentist know if there is any change in the medications you take or if you have received any special advice from your physician. The benefits of receiving dental care during pregnancy far outweigh potential risks. Be sure to keep your dentist informed of any changes in your mouth such as swelling, redness or bleeding.
Tips for maintaining a healthy mouth during pregnancy:
- Brush thoroughly with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste twice a day.
- Floss between your teeth daily.
- Purchase products that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
- Eat a balanced diet. If you snack, do so in moderation.
- Visit your dentist regularly for a professional cleaning and check-up.
- If you need help controlling plaque, your dentist may recommend rinsing at night with an antimicrobial mouth rinse.
- If you have morning sickness and are vomiting frequently, try rinsing with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with water. If possible, avoid tooth brushing directly after vomiting when stomach acids repeatedly come into contact with teeth, the effects of erosion can eventually cause tooth enamel to wear away.
Gingivitis - Your mouth can be affected by the hormonal changes you will experience during pregnancy. For example, some women develop a condition known as "pregnancy gingivitis," an inflammation of the gums that can cause swelling and tenderness. Your gums also may bleed a little when you brush or floss. Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to more serious forms of gum disease. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings to prevent this.
Medications - Some drugs can be used during and after dental treatment to make you more comfortable. Inform your dentist of any prescription or over-the-counter drug you are taking. This will help your dentist determine what type of drug, if any, will be prescribed for you. Your dentist can consult with your physician to determine the drugs such as painkillers or antibiotics you may safely take during the pregnancy. Discuss any concerns with your dentist and physician. Both are concerned about you and your baby.
Be sure to talk with your dentist about how to properly secure and dispose of any unused, unwanted or expired medications, especially if there are any children in the household. Also, take the time to talk with your children about the dangers of using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.
X-Rays - It's possible you'll need an X-ray if you suffer a dental emergency or need a dental problem diagnosed. Although, radiation from dental X-rays is extremely low, your dentist or hygienist will cover you with a leaded apron that minimizes exposure to the abdomen. Your dental office will also cover your throat with a leaded thyroid collar to protect the thyroid from radiation.
Pregnancy Tumors - In some women, overgrowths of tissue called pregnancy tumors appear on the gums, most often during the second trimester. These non-cancerous growths or swellings are usually found between the teeth and are believed to be related to excess plaque. They bleed easily and have a red, raw-looking raspberry-like appearance. They usually disappear after your baby is born, but if you are concerned, talk to your dentist about removing them. If you notice pregnancy tumors or any other changes in your mouth during pregnancy, see your dentist.