When you’re pregnant, one of the last things you might be thinking about is the health of your teeth and gums. You might be more concerned with the health of the baby growing inside you or with getting through your daily bout of morning sickness.
But taking care of your mouth is an essential part of staying healthy during pregnancy, for both you and your baby. Gum disease and pregnancy often go hand-in-hand. There are a few other risks and challenges that pregnant women face, meaning it’s important to see your dentist at least once during your pregnancy.
A number of factors arise during pregnancy that can make caring for your teeth and gums feel like a low priority. For example, if you have particularly difficult morning sickness, the very thought of using a minty toothpaste to brush your teeth twice a day might make you feel nauseous.
Some women develop growths on their gums, known as pregnancy tumors. The small growths might be uncomfortable, but they typically disappear after the baby is born. It’s thought that the “tumors” are related to excess plaque on the teeth and gums. Hormone changes while pregnant also increase your risk for developing a condition called pregnancy gingivitis.
Some women develop pregnancy gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease. You may notice that your gums are sensitive or bleed a bit when you brush and floss. Pregnancy gingivitis develops because hormonal changes during pregnancy make your mouth a more welcoming place for bacteria. Brushing and flossing can help treat the gingivitis, as can seeing your dentist. Don’t ignore the swelling or bleeding, as doing so can cause the gum disease to progress, put you and the baby at risk.
Risks to Baby
Gum disease during pregnancy can put your baby at risk. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, having periodontal disease while pregnant increases your risk of giving birth early or having a baby with a low birth weight. Both premature birth and a low birth rate increase your baby’s risk for development problems.
What to Do
One of the best things you can do for your mouth during pregnancy is continue to care for it as you did before you were pregnant, or to step up your oral care game if you weren’t so diligent about taking care of your teeth and gums before. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once daily. If your toothpaste makes you feel sick or aggravates your morning sickness, ask your dentist to recommend a brand that has a bland flavor. To keep the acid from eroding your teeth, rinse your mouth out with water after a bout of morning sickness.
Try to keep up your regularly scheduled dental appointments during your pregnancy. Talk to your dentist about when the best time to schedule an appointment is while pregnant. Usually, the second trimester is an opportune time to see your dentist for a regular cleaning and examination.
Your dentist may or may not take X-rays while you are pregnant. Today’s dental X-rays are a lot safer than the ones taken in the past, but your dentist might decide to hold off on taking them, just to be on the safe side. If you do need X-rays, your dentist will drape your abdomen in a lead blanket and cover your throat to shield against the radiation.
Your diet during pregnancy can also impact the health of your mouth and body and the health of your baby. Limit sugary treats and snacks and focus on eating whole foods such as vegetables and fruits. It’s particularly important that you get an adequate amount of nutrients during pregnancy, from protein to vitamins. Your dentist and doctor can recommend foods to eat while pregnant for optimum health.
Once Baby’s Born
Don’t let your dental care fall by the wayside after your baby is born. It’s important that you care for your own teeth and gums after pregnancy and that you take care of your baby’s gums, too. Your dentist can show you how to care for baby’s gums and teeth as they come in. Ideally, your baby will see a dentist for an exam and cleaning by the time he or she is 1.
Miami periodontists Dr. John Paul Gallardo can help you get through pregnancy with your gums intact. If you have pregnancy gingivitis or are worried about gum disease during pregnancy, the doctors can evaluate your gums and let you know the best course of treatment. To schedule an appointment, call their practice at (305) 447-1447 today.