It's important for you to take good care of your teeth and gums while you're pregnant. Pregnancy causes hormonal changes that boost the risk of developing gum disease which, in turn, can affect the health of your developing baby.
Below are some tips to help you maintain good oral health before, during, and after pregnancy.
Before You Get Pregnant
Try to make a dental appointment before getting pregnant. That way, your teeth can be professionally cleaned, gum tissue can be carefully examined, and any oral health problems can be treated in advance of your pregnancy.
Dental Care While Pregnant
- Tell your dentist (and doctor) if you are pregnant. Routine dental care can be done any time during pregnancy. Any urgent procedure can be done, as well. All elective dental procedures, however, should be postponed until after the delivery. Before you have your dental appointment, check with your obstetrician to see if they have any special precautions/instructions for you.
- Tell your dentist the names and dosages of all drugs you are taking, including medications and prenatal vitamins prescribed by your doctor, as well as any specific medical advice your doctor has given you. Your dentist may need to alter your dental treatment plan based on this information.
- Dental X-rays can be done during pregnancy. Your dentist will use extreme caution to safeguard you and your baby, such as shielding your abdomen and thyroid. Advances in technology have made X-rays much safer today than in past decades.
- Don't skip your dental checkup appointment simply because you’re pregnant. Now more than any other time, regular exams are important because pregnancy causes hormonal changes that put you at increased risk for periodontal disease and for tender gums that bleed easily, a condition called pregnancy gingivitis. Forty percent of women will develop gingivitis sometime during their pregnancy. If you already have significant gum disease, being pregnant can make it worse.
- Pay particular attention to any changes in your gums during pregnancy. If tenderness, bleeding, or gum swelling occurs at any time during your pregnancy, talk with your dentist or periodontist as soon as possible.
- Follow good oral hygiene practices to prevent and reduce oral health problems, which include brushing at least twice a day, flossing once a day, and using an antimicrobial mouth rinse. If you are due for a professional cleaning, don't skip it simply because you are pregnant. Now more than ever, professional dental cleanings are particularly important. Gum disease that doesn't get better may need to be treated by a dental professional. Treatments may include antibiotics and excision of affected tissue.
Managing Morning Sickness
- If morning sickness is keeping you from brushing your teeth, change to a bland-tasting toothpaste during pregnancy. Ask your dentist or hygienist to recommend brands.
- Rinse your mouth out with water or a mouth rinse if you suffer from morning sickness and have bouts of frequent vomiting.
Eating Right for Your Teeth and Baby
- Avoid sugary snacks. Sweet cravings are common during pregnancy. However, keep in mind that the more frequently you snack, the greater the chance of developing tooth decay.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Your baby's first teeth begin to develop about 3 months into pregnancy. Healthy diets containing dairy products, cheese, and yogurt are a good source of these essential minerals and are good for baby's developing teeth, gums, and bones.
Gum Disease and Premature Birth
At least a couple of major studies have shown that there is a link between gum disease and premature birth. Researchers of one study who published their results in The Journal of the American Dental Association found that pregnant women with chronic gum disease were four to seven times more likely to deliver prematurely (before week 37) and underweight babies than mothers with healthy gums.
Mothers with the most severe periodontal disease delivered the most prematurely, at 32 weeks. It’s unclear whether treating gum disease reduces the risk of preterm birth.
Pregnancy Tumors in Mouth
Sometimes a large lump with deep red pinpoint markings on it forms on inflamed gum tissue, usually near the upper gum line. The red lump glistens, may bleed and crust over, and can make eating and speaking difficult and cause discomfort. These growths are called pregnancy tumors and can occur at any time during the course of pregnancy, although they usually occur during the second trimester.
Don't let the word ''tumor'' worry you. These growths are not cancerous and can't spread. A pregnancy tumor is an extreme inflammatory reaction to a local irritation (such as food particles or plaque). The tumors occur in up to 10% of pregnant women and often in women who also have pregnancy gingivitis.
Pregnancy tumors are also known by several other names, including pyogenic granuloma, granuloma of pregnancy, lobular capillary hemangioma, and pregnancy epulides.
Pregnancy tumors usually disappear on their own after the baby's birth. However, if the tumor interferes with eating, your dentist or a specialist may choose to remove it. This involves a simple procedure performed under local anesthesia. Even if the tumor is removed during pregnancy, it redevelops in about half the cases.
After You've Had Your Baby
If you had any gum problems during your pregnancy, see your dentist soon after delivery to have a full oral health check.