You’ve recently become pregnant (Congratulations!) and you know it’s imperative to see your obstetrician frequently to protect your baby’s health. But did you know that it’s also important to keep up with your dentist during your pregnancy? In fact, pregnancy can increase your risk of developing certain oral conditions, which can be a risk to you and your baby. Seeing your dentist when you first become pregnant, and setting a schedule for visits during your pregnancy, can ensure that you and your baby remain healthy and happy.
What are the Risk Factors to My Oral Health?
If you’re more than a few weeks into your first trimester, you’ve probably noticed the classic characteristics of pregnancy, such as unique food cravings and morning sickness. These often-parodied symptoms are nevertheless risks to your oral health, and can increase the likelihood of developing oral disorders.
- Gingivitis: also called gum disease, gingivitis is common in pregnant women due to hormonal changes that make the gums more sensitive to bacteria. Brushing your teeth twice daily, flossing, and using a fluoride mouthwash can decrease the buildup of bacteria that cause gingivitis.
- Cavities: extremely common during pregnancy, cavities can arise from an increase in acidity in the mouth due to morning sickness; changes in diet from hormonal food cravings; or dry mouth and poor oral hygiene due to frequent vomiting.
- Decay: women who experience morning sickness during pregnancy are at risk of tooth erosion and decay. Vomiting exposes the teeth and gums to acidity that can wear down the tooth enamel, and although it may seem counterintuitive, brushing immediately after vomiting may exacerbate the corrosive process. Stomach acid weakens the enamel, leaving it vulnerable to erosion; most toothpastes have an abrasive element to polish teeth, but when applied to weakened enamel, can wear down your teeth. Try to gargle with warm salt water immediately after morning sickness, and use a fluoride mouthwash instead of brushing.
Is My Baby at Risk?
While your obstetrician may recommend putting off major surgeries and certain medications while you’re pregnant, it’s generally safe to undergo minor dental procedures during pregnancy—even those that require local anesthesia. The American Dental Association states that preventative and restorative dental treatments are safe throughout pregnancy, even during the first trimester. Instead of dental procedures or treatments, the more dangerous risk to your growing baby is actually poor oral hygiene and putting off necessary dental procedures. Although the research on dental disease and its effects on pregnancy is still limited, scientists have drawn the following correlations:
- Women with periodontal disease (gum disease) during pregnancy were 7 times more likely to give birth prematurely. Causality cannot be determined from these studies alone.
- While you can’t transmit tooth decay in utero to your fetus, after giving birth, babies born to women with cavities are more likely to develop cavities within their first three years.
The best way to protect your baby from dental-related pregnancy complications is to keep your teeth clean by practicing proper oral hygiene, and seeing your dentist more frequently for checkups and treatments while you’re pregnant. If you are pregnant and notice a new dental problem, call your dentist right away to seek treatment.
Questions about how to take care of your mouth and your baby while you’re pregnant? Call Countryside Dental Group for a consultation today!