Pregnancy and Oral Health

Pregnancy and Oral Health

Throughout pregnancy, you may worry about your waistline and fret about food. You
take prenatal vitamins, see your healthcare provider often, get regular exercise,
and avoid alcohol and smoking—all in the name of a healthy pregnancy. And, ultimately,
a healthy baby.

Something you might not associate with a healthy pregnancy is dental care. But regular
dental checkups and cleanings, along with brushing and flossing often, are important
for a healthy mouth
and a healthy pregnancy.

Seeing the dentist

Woman having her teeth examined

Pregnant or not, you should be seeing your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and
exam. While you’re pregnant, it’s even more important that you don’t skip those twice-yearly
visits. Regular exams can help prevent and control gum disease and infections.

Pregnancy hormones can cause oral
health problems, such as gingivitis and swollen, bleeding, and irritated gums. Gums
may
also be extremely sore and brushing and flossing may be uncomfortable. If you suffer
from gum disease or have problems with your teeth or gums during pregnancy, your dentist
may suggest that you schedule cleanings more often during the second and third
trimesters.

The X-ray risk

The use of X-rays, pain medicine,
and local anesthesia when necessary to correctly diagnose and treat dental problems
is
safe during pregnancy. Though X-rays are often part of a routine dental exam, your
dentist may skip them until after you’ve had your baby.

If you have a dental emergency and X-rays are needed, keep in mind that the amount
of radiation given off from a single X-ray is quite low. Your dentist will protect
your baby by covering you with a lead apron.

Maintaining a healthy mouth

In addition to regularly scheduled
dental cleanings and exams, correct dental care at home can help protect gums and
teeth
from disease and decay. Brush teeth thoroughly using a toothpaste containing fluoride
twice a day. At least once a day, carefully floss between each tooth.

It’s also important not to give in
too often to those pregnancy cravings if you have a sweet tooth. Try to limit your
intake of sugary, sticky, sweet treats. Instead, choose crunchy fresh fruits and
vegetables and other nutritious foods that are less likely to cause tooth decay. If
you
do treat yourself to dessert, make sure to brush and floss soon afterward to prevent
tooth decay.

Protecting baby’s teeth

Your prenatal trips to the dentist
are also a great time to talk about the best ways to care for your new baby’s teeth.
Ask
your dentist how and when to start brushing your baby’s teeth and gums. Also ask about
avoiding habits that can transmit bacteria to baby’s mouth. These include putting
a
pacifier, spoon, or bottle nipple in your mouth to clean it. Also, ask what you can
do
as your baby grows to help reduce the risk for cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease.
This will help your baby’s dental health as those first tiny teeth break through.