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Pregnancy Tips: Taking Care of Your Teeth

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shutterstock_25543774Pregnancy hormones affect the body in many ways, particularly when it comes to the teeth and the dental area. But for some reason, the teeth and gums are usually overlooked when it comes to general pregnancy care.

It has long been known that pregnant women are more susceptible to gingivitis (swelling of the gums), periodontitis (infection of the gums), and other serious dental diseases because of the increase of hormones throughout the body. Apart from keeping the mother healthy, taking care of the gums and teeth is important for other reasons – the main reason being that dental disease can affect the growth and development of the foetus.

There are many varied opinions about the type of dental work that should be performed during pregnancy, but all the experts agree that avoiding any unnecessary procedures throughout the first and third trimester is the best approach to take. Routine care, such as cleaning and regular check-ups, are recommended, but dentists worldwide advise leaving elective procedures until after the baby’s birth. If any emergency work needs to be performed, ideally it should be done during the second trimester to reduce the risk of growth defects to baby. Avoid dental x-rays wherever possible.

Dentists recommend that women increase their calcium and vitamin D intake throughout the pregnancy to help reduce deterioration of the teeth. As the foetus grows, it absorbs more and more of the mothers calcium – increasing calcium based products (yogurt, milk and calcium-fortified soymilk) will not only contribute to strengthening the mother’s bones and teeth, but will also help with the baby’s. Vitamin D helps the body utilise this extra calcium by helping it absorb more quickly and can be found in eggs, margarine, cheese, salmon and other fatty fish. If morning sickness prevents the mother from eating a diet rich in calcium, supplements should be taken instead.

Dental facts you should know:

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  • Periodontitis has been known to contribute to gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, low birth weights and even premature labour. In fact, it is estimated that around 18% of premature births is caused by periodontitis.
  • If you suffer from morning sickness, do not brush your teeth immediately after vomiting. Stomach acid damages tooth enamel, and a toothbrush will just damage it further. Instead simply rinse the mouth with water, rub toothpaste onto your teeth with a finger, and wait for at least an hour after vomiting before brushing your teeth.
  • Gingivitis affects nearly 70% of pregnant women, causing their gums to bleed. This is because hormones cause the body to react differently to plaque in the mouth. Making sure the plaque is regularly removed and using a softer toothbrush can help to counteract this. Flossing regularly and using a mouthwash that is high in fluoride is another good preventative measure.
  • Sugary snacks can have a massive effect on the teeth whilst pregnant. If you find you can’t avoid the sugar cravings, try to restrict yourself to processed, low-sugar products, or try to increase the amount of natural foods you eat. Fruit is always a great alternative.

For more information about whether undergoing a dental procedure is the best thing for you and your baby, always contact your obstetrician or GP before visiting the dentist.

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