Did You Know?
Did you know your dental health can decline during pregnancy? When you’re pregnant, your teeth are probably not something you give much thought to, there’s so much else to occupy your time and your thoughts after all. It is however something that you should be mindful of. Here’s why.
Factors in Pregnancy that Lead to a Decline in Oral Health
Many mothers experience morning sickness, and not just in the mornings. It’s an unfortunate part of pregnancy for some, and definitely unpleasant. Aside from the obvious discomfort, stomach acid is harmful to your tooth’s enamel.
If you’ve never been pregnant before, then nothing will prepare you for the exhaustion that a pregnant woman can feel. Your body is working so hard at growing a new human, and exhaustion as a side effect is common. With exhaustion, often comes a gradual decline in abiding by lifelong bedtime routines, namely brushing teeth and flossing.
Increased snacking and grazing often accompany pregnancy. We’ve written before about how continual grazing and snacking during the day is harmful for your kids’ teeth, but the same goes for the teeth of pregnant women. For your teeth grazing and snacking creates a feeding ground for Streptococcus mutans, a cavity causing bacteria that feeds on sugars and starches all while secreting acid.
Gingivitis is more likely during pregnancy. According to the CDC, “60-75% of pregnant women have gingivitis”. Gingivitis is inflammation, swelling, redness, and bleeding of your gums and is more likely during pregnancy because of the hormonal changes. Obvious unpleasantness aside, gingivitis can transform to periodontitis. Periodontitis can affect the integrity of your jaw bone and cause you to lose teeth. In addition, periodontitis has been linked with preterm births and low birthrate.
Gummy prenatal vitamins are harmful for teeth. Most expecting mothers take a prenatal vitamin, but beware of prenatal vitamins that are gummy or chewy. Those types of vitamins unfortunately are sugary and stick in the crevices of teeth.
Cavities in Expecting Mothers and Why It Matters
Unfortunately, cavities are relatively common in expecting mothers. The CDC reports that “1 in 4 women of childbearing age have untreated cavities”. When a cavity is present it means that you have harmful bacteria in your mouth and you can pass that bacteria to your baby after they are born thereby increasing the likelihood that your baby will have cavities early on.
Those harmful bacteria in a pregnant mother’s mouth, if in excessive supply, can actually traverse through the bloodstream to the uterus. It then triggers the production of prostaglandins which is the suspected link to preterm births.
Tips for Pregnant Women
It isn’t all doom and gloom for your teeth and those of your unborn baby. There are many things you can do during pregnancy to take care of your oral health and therefore protect your baby.
Take a glass of water and dissolve 1tsp of baking soda in it. Swish and rinse that solution around in your mouth after a bout of morning sickness to help wash away the stomach acids.
Schedule a visit with your dentist during pregnancy. There is no reason you can’t visit the dentist during pregnancy. Schedule a checkup and cleaning at least once during your pregnancy before your baby is born. Your dentist can advise you on the condition of your gums, any potential or current cavities and can make a plan with you for treatment if needed to get your teeth ready before your baby is born.
Don’t let go of your brushing and flossing routines. Even at the end of the day when you think you can’t do one more thing before going to bed, do just one more thing. Brush and floss those teeth. Consider also taking the time to brush during the day after you’ve indulged in a sugary or starchy snack.
Drink water with fluoride. We know that with pregnancy comes cravings, moreover we have no desire to shame a pregnant mother away from those cravings. When you feed a craving that you know isn’t great for your teeth, we suggest washing it down with a glass of water to help rinse the sugars from your mouth.
Put some healthy snacking into your snacking repertoire as one more thing you can do to take care of your dental health. Here’s some suggestions:
Apples, Pears, Celery and Carrots
Crunchy vegetables and fruits are a good snack option because the crunch will do a bit of scrubbing on the tooth’s enamel and they are chalked full of vitamins. Crunchy fruits do have natural sugars but have a higher water content which lessens the sticky factor that processed sugars have.
Kale, Spinach, and Broccoli
Leafy greens are great sources of folic acid which in addition to being an important component in your prenatal vitamin, is also beneficial to maintaining healthy teeth and gums
Almonds, Cashews, and Peanuts
Nuts are great sources of calcium and phosphorus. Calcium and phosphorus are minerals important to dental health but can be eaten away by the acids in foods. Snacking on nuts helps to replenish them.
Utah Pediatric Dentists
We know that expecting mothers feel a lot of pressure. Worrying about your dental health can be one more anxiety on top of so many others that can occur during a pregnancy. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the information presented here. Mindfulness about your brushing routines and your snacking will be beneficial. Be sure to visit your trusted dentist before your baby is born.
At Utah Pediatric Dentists, we look forward to meeting your baby and being part of helping you foster good dental hygiene habits in your home by visiting us at any of our four locations. If you’re already curious about when your baby’s first dentist visit should occur, check out our post, “At What Age Should You Take Your Child to the Dentist“.