Pregnancy is often one of the most exciting and memorable times in a mother’s life. There are so many things to keep track of to ensure a successful delivery, and the health of the mother’s teethand gums often take a back seat. It so happens that many factors in the pregnant mother tip the balance in favor of cavities and gum disease.
The old wives tale of “gain a child, lose a tooth” has got a boost by recent research out of New York University. Investigators found women with the most children have lost the largest number of teeth. Aside from the apparent reasons for steering clear of the Snagle-Tooth Club, a mother with cavities and gum disease can affect their fetus or newborn, and prevention is always easier and most effective. What things make an expecting mom prone to dental problems? The factors are many, but lets simplify.
First culprit is more frequent snacking as the body demands food for two. Secondly, that dreaded morning sickness and nausea induced acids introduced to the mouth can be very big contributors to the pregnancy cavity spell. The pregnancy hormonal changes are of no help either. So the in-cognizant mommy to be is actually got a few things going against her oral health. Brushing and flossing remain as her first line of defense.
Also, dental care by a professional that is well trained to meet the needs of an expecting mom can make a big difference. After all, if mommy’s mouth is healthy, it’s more likely that her baby’s mouth will be healthy. We will explore the options and suggestions of what can be done to overcome the challenges facing the expecting mom. Read on.
Habits to Smile About:
A pregnant lady has a lot on her plate. Regular OB/GYN visits, exercising, taking lamasse, watching your diet…etc are all big responsibilities—and oral hygiene is no exception. Many women dont realize that routine dental visits are typically safe during pregnancy. Sure its important to tell your dentist if you are having pain, gum bleeding, or other problems in your mouth, but routine and preventive care should be a part of your pregnancy.
In fact, realizing the importance of this, some insurance carriers allow additional preventive care if an insured is pregnant. If expecting, its good form to let your dentist know in advance of the appointment and even specify how many weeks along you are.
Other useful information would be if you’re taking any medications, or if your pregnancy is considered high risk or if there is anything atypical about your condition. There are some periods when dental treatment is safest for the pregnant mom and her child.
Also, there may be times when certain treatment is postponed until delivery. The benefits of receiving dental care during pregnancy far outweigh potential risks.
Check list for maintaining a healthy mouth during pregnancy:
- Brush twice per day for two minutes with a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss between your teeth nightly.
- Eat and snack wisely and keep balanced.
- Regularly visit a dentist that is comfortable with current guidelines.
- Consider Xylitol sugar use to interfere with transmission of bacteria to your child
- Consider a professional mouth rinse if gingivitis persists.
- Damage to enamel during periods of frequent vomiting can be countered with frequents rinses with baking soda and switching to a baking soda based toothpaste. To minimize erosion, it’s best to just rinse and not to brush immediately after vomiting.
Pass it On
Did you know that an infant is born with a (near) sterile mouth? So, all the bacteria that cause cavities, gum disease, oral infections…etc are actually introduced to him or her. By whom you ask? Well, the concepts of bacterial transmission from caregiver to newborn (vertical) and sibling to newborn (horizontal) have been shown in clinical studies.
So, what if, in an imaginary world, we had the ability not to infect our children by those bacteria? Well, our kids would never get cavities or gum disease. Back to reality though, delayed inoculation of those bacteria from others to the child in those early months of life has been shown to result in decrease aggressiveness and virulence.
Once established, the collection and type of bacteria (oral flora) in a person’s mouth are very difficult if not impossible to change. In short, great oral health by the parents and habits that discourage passing of bacteria from adults and siblings to a newborn may be critical in that child’s oral health for the rest of their life. Pass on hugs and good habits instead of bugs.
You’ve heard of it before. It means inflammation of the gums. A large section of the adult population gets gingivitis. While the toothpaste companies want you to believe their magic formula will make it all go away, this is different.
An expecting mommy’s mouth can be affected by the hormonal changes experienced during childbearing, often leading to “pregnancy gingivitis.” So as if the morning nausea and back pains weren’t enough, many have to deal with pregnancy induced inflammation of the gums with swelling and tenderness.
Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to more serious forms of gum disease.
What to do? Keep your dentist in the loop for appropriate and individualized treatment.
Some mommies to be get what is called “hyperplastic gingival growth” or “pregnancy tumors”, most frequently during their second trimester. This growth is in the area of the gums in between teeth and its is benign (non-cancerous). The gums are red and angry looking and often sensitive.
The exact cause of these changes remain a bit elusive, but we know the pregnancy hormonal changes are likely key contributors and the body’s response to plaque becomes a bit exaggerated. So immaculate hygiene and plaque. control as well as routine (or more frequent) professional dental care is recommended to address the issue.
They bleed easily and have a red, raw-looking raspberry-like appearance. They usually disappear after your baby is born, but if you are concerned, talk to your dentist about removing them. If you notice pregnancy tumors or any other changes in your mouth during pregnancy, see your dentist.
Your OBGY has surely shared with you the importance of careful consideration when it comes to taking medications. Even some over-the-counter drugs can be harmful to the unborn child. Needless to say, your dentist must consider special precautions and coordinate his care and prescription or over-the-counter drug recommendations with your physician.
A big consideration for any mother chasing after a 2 or 3 year old is preventing access by the child to the drugs. Even toothpaste can cause problems for a toddler if ingested. So, prevention and caution should be prioritized.
You are what you eat:
Your child depends on your healthy diet and habits to develop from head to toe. His or her tooth buds start forming as early as the 12th week after gestation.
A well-balanced diet including vitamins C, A, and D and sufficient calcium and proteins can really help. That’s because what you eat during your pregnancy affects the development of your baby, including their teeth.
What to Eat:
There are so many resources for balancing your diet and your physician can help. Here’s some suggestions:
- Fruits and vegetables. About half your diet should be made up of fruits and vegies each day. Grains. Fill up with whole grains rather than refined grains (try brown rice, whole grain bread/cereals)
- Smart proteins. Spice up your protein sources to include poultry, eggs, peas, beans, and at least eight ounces of seafood weekly. Be sure to buy lean meat to keep the fat content low.
- Dairy. Lose the fat and use low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
Outside the obvious “eat less sugary foods”, eating healthy also means avoiding grazing. The frequency of sugary exposures (any eating really) is a huge factor in causing cavities. If you have to snack, consider fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy (cheese fights cavities), and whole grains. Your doctor can give you specific recommendations. To counter frequent acids exposures (snacking), consider brushing three times per day and using fluoridated toothpaste.