Pregnancy can lead to dental problems for some women. After all, the body goes through many changes as caring for one becomes caring for two. And while some of these changes are obvious and well known (hello, basketball belly), others such as dental health may not be as well known but are just as important.
To maintain healthy teeth during your pregnancy you need to take extra care. So we created this guide to help you understand how your oral health can affect your pregnancy health. It also includes practical tips so you can better care for your teeth for the next nine months.
Why it’s important to look after your teeth during pregnancy
Pregnancy hormones can make gums more sensitive to dental plaque, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Unfortunately, severe gum disease during pregnancy is linked to an increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight.
You’ll also need to be mindful of your calcium intake, as it helps build the teeth and bones of your developing child. If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, it may be taken from your body (usually from the bones, and never from the teeth) leaving you short.
How your teeth may change
As an expectant mother, you may experience several health challenges during your pregnancy. Along with the potential loss of calcium, your gums can become swollen (which can lead to other issues such as gingivitis), and gum tissue growths may also appear. Your changing hormones can even relax the ligaments in your body, so watch out for loose teeth.
News to you?
Of course, some of the more obvious challenges include:
- morning sickness and vomiting, which can weaken and erode teeth or cause decay
- cravings for, and indulging in, sugary foods
- gagging while brushing your teeth or gargling, disrupting your regular oral hygiene habit.
How your baby’s teeth can be affected
Pregnancy not only affects the health of your own teeth and gums, but also the development of your baby’s teeth.
Your foetus will start growing teeth around the sixth week of pregnancy. To give their teeth the best chance for healthy development, you need to maintain a good diet. As we’ve already mentioned, including good sources of calcium (e.g. yoghurt, milk, cheese, almonds) will help your growing bub develop their chompers, as will keeping your teeth in good nick and treating any decay immediately.
10 Ways to keep your teeth and gums healthy during pregnancy
It may seem like we’ve shared nothing but bad news about teeth and pregnancy. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Here are our top 10 tips for keeping your teeth and gums healthy during pregnancy (while still enjoying your life).
- Brush your teeth twice a day for around two-minutes with a soft/extra-soft, small head toothbrush.
- Floss daily or use interdental brushes to clean between teeth.
- If vomiting, rinse your mouth with water immediately after. Follow up with a fluoride mouthwash.
- Don’t brush your teeth after vomiting. Wait at least an hour, as any residual stomach acids may damage your tooth enamel.
- Avoid smoking at all times.
- Limit the amount of caffeine and acidic drinks (e.g. juice, soft drinks) you have.
- Eat whole nutritious foods as much as possible. To satisfy any nagging sugar cravings, try eating fresh fruit. Rinse with mouthwash afterwards.
- Increase your calcium intake. Good sources include dairy products, tinned salmon, calcium-fortified nut and soy milks, and almonds.
- Increase your Vitamin D intake, as it helps the body process calcium. Good sources include the sun (but limit your exposure), fatty fish, eggs, breads and cereals, and fortified milks.
- Continue gently cleaning your gums, even if they bleed. Use an extra soft toothbrush and light pressure.
Dental treatment is safe during pregnancy (and essential)
If it’s been a while since you’ve had a dental check-up, the best thing you can do for your teeth during pregnancy is book an appointment to assess your oral health. Let your dentist know you’re pregnant, and of course ask questions if you’re concerned about any treatments you’re due to receive.