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DENTAL HEALTH AND PREGNANCY
Pregnant women should see their dentist as soon as pregnancy is confirmed and then regularly throughout pregnancy, or as recommended. Women planning to fall pregnant should also consult a dentist for a check-up.
Common oral health problems during pregnancy
The following conditions may present during pregnancy:
- gingivitis (inflammation and bleeding of gums)
- periodontitis (infection of gums and supporting structures)
- pregnancy tumours (gum overgrowth/swellings)
- tooth decay and cavities (caries)
- tooth loss.
This can occur because the increased levels of hormones make the gums more sensitive to the harmful plaque on your teeth and gum. Symptoms include red, inflamed and bleeding gums.
However, plaque, not hormones, is the major cause of gingivitis. If ignored, gingivitis can progress to a more serious stage of gum disease, called periodontitis, which can permanently damage the gums and bone which support teeth.
There is also evidence to suggest a link between gum disease and premature, underweight births. Pregnant women with gum disease may be more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small.
Periodontal disease can be present in various forms including gum inflammation, infection of the surface tissues of the gums (gingivitis) or periodontitis characterised by severe infection and damage to supporting bones and ligaments.
- inflammation and bleeding gums
- bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
- receding gums
- sensitive teeth or gums
- loose teeth.
Some women may also notice small growths or swellings on their gums. These are thought to be linked to increased plaque formation and can be surgically removed after delivery. See your dentist if these occur.
Tips for good oral hygiene during pregnancy
So to avoid dental problems of your own and to contribute to the healthy development of your baby, during pregnancy, it is crucial to maintain good oral hygiene.
The Australian Dental Association recommends that pregnant women:
- brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste with a soft toothbrush and flossing daily to remove plaque from between teeth and under the gums
- floss twice a day
- eat a healthy diet and avoid sugary foods
- visit dentist regularly.
- You may be more susceptible to gum problems (bleeding and tenderness). Gently brush your gums when you brush your teeth.
- If you gag when brushing, try later in the morning when the gag reflex may not be as strong.
- A smaller brush might be helpful for the back teeth. >You may experience pregnancy sickness or gastric reflux – rinse your mouth with water after vomiting.
- Try not to brush your teeth for 30 minutes after vomiting – this will give the enamel time to recover from the acid attack.
- Visit your dentist in early pregnancy to have your teeth and gums checked. Don’t forget to mention you’re pregnant.
- There is no truth to the old wives tale that ‘a tooth is lost with every pregnancy’.
- Your baby’s teeth start developing in the first three months of pregnancy.
- Once your baby is born, decay causing germs may be transferred from mother to child.
- It's also important to avoid alcohol and smoking which can both lead to poor oral health and are linked to birth defects.
Your dental visit during pregnancy
Be sure to tell your dentist if you're pregnant or attempting to get pregnant.
The ideal time to schedule your dental appointment is during the fourth to sixth month of your pregnancy, because the first trimester is of the greatest importance in your baby’s development. Typically, x-rays, anaesthetic, pain medications and antibiotics are not prescribed during the first trimester (there may be exceptional circumstances).
Having a thorough examination and professional cleaning during pregnancy will ensure your teeth and especially gums stay as healthy as possible and prevent the development of any dental problems.
Contact us today and make an appointment to find out more.