Pregnancy is such an exciting time, and with all the preparations you are busy making for the arrival of your bundle of joy, it can be easy to overlook the importance of continuing oral health care. Oral health can affect not only you but your growing baby as well, and good habits set you up not just for your own tooth health but also to pass on healthy oral routines to your new child.
Routine Care and Procedures
For most women routine dental visits, including cleanings and minor dental treatments, are appropriate throughout pregnancy. Be sure to inform your dentist of your stage of pregnancy when scheduling your appointment, as well as current medications you take and any special medical instructions you have received from your regular healthcare provider. In high risk pregnancies or with specific medical conditions, certain treatments may be better postponed until after your baby is born.
X-rays may sometimes be required even in pregnancy, so your dentist will cover your body with a lead shield to protect you both from radiation. This is why it is vital that your dental care provider be aware that you are expecting.
The vascular and other systemic changes of pregnancy can make women more vulnerable to mouth disease like gingivitis. Monitor the health of your mouth regularly by visual examination and alert your dental care provider to any changes you notice. This is important as untreated gum disease can lead to more serious oral problems, which can compromise your health and that of your baby.
Diet and Special Mouth Care
Diet is just as important for your baby’s teeth as it is for yours. Just as you need calcium, phosphorus, and other vitamins and nutrients for oral health, the building blocks of your little one’s teeth are forming and he or she will take the nutrients they need from your system, so good nutrition is essential for both of you. Pregnancy can be a time of constant hunger and late night snacking – make the most of this additional intake by munching on carrots, cheese, avocado, and other nutrient-dense snacks, especially at night when your teeth may spend a longer time exposed to food particles. As tempting as sugary treats can be, try to avoid them as much as possible not only for the health of your teeth but because they put stress on your hard-working body as well.
Nausea and vomiting can be a particularly challenging part of pregnancy, and the digestive acids from your stomach can be damaging to your teeth. If this is a problem for you, try a mixture of one teaspoon baking soda in some warm water. Rinsing your teeth with this formula can protect them from acid erosion.
In addition, just as the hormones of pregnancy cause loosening of hip joints and other bones and ligaments, they can also cause slight loosening of the ligaments and bones that support the teeth. This is normal and typically won’t cause serious problems like tooth loss in the absence of additional complications.
Just the Beginning
Increased vigilance in oral health doesn’t stop with the birth of your baby. Dental decay can begin before you even see a baby’s teeth appear. Shortly after birth you may begin gently cleaning your baby’s gums with a dampened cloth or cotton square. This not only gets you into a routine of total family oral hygiene, but sets the stage for your current and future children to carry out healthy habits that will protect their teeth for life.