Oral Care During Your Pregnancy
Some myths are particularly hard to bust – like the belief that you should avoid the dentist during pregnancy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Sure, there are some procedures that should be delayed. Having mercury amalgam fillings removed, for instance, is something to put on hold until after you’ve delivered and your child is no longer nursing. But regular dental care is not only safe. It’s essential.
This is because gingivitis – early stage gum disease – often accompanies pregnancy. Up to 75% of women experience it, puffy, tender gums, bleeding gums, and all.
It’s not just your oral health that’s at risk, though. Decades of research has shown that pregnancy gingivitis raises the risk of birth complications. According to a large review of the science published late last year, three problems are most common: preterm birth, low birth weight, and preeclampsia.
Another recent study showed that over the course of pregnancy, it’s common to see gingivitis worsen into periodontitis – severe gum disease – by the third trimester. Its authors also identified two factors that contributed most to this: poor oral hygiene and obesity. (Both of these are also major risk factors for gum disease in general.)
There are a few reasons why gum disease is so common during pregnancy, including changes in hormone levels, immune function, and metabolism. Researchers have also found changes in the composition of the oral microbiome – the community of bacteria, both helpful and harmful, that live in the mouth. More pathogens (“bad bugs”) turn up in their mouths, compared to the mouths of non-pregnant women. These include two major players in gum disease, P. gingivalis and A. actinomycetemcomitans, as well as species of Strep, Staph, and Candida.
The bottom line? While maintaining good oral hygiene is always important, it’s especially important during pregnancy, for you and baby alike.
Going to the Dentist During Pregnancy
As soon as you know you’re pregnant, it’s a good idea to schedule a dental check-up and cleaning. That way, we can get a good read on your current oral health so we can track any changes, as well as potential risk factors for gum disease. With this knowledge, we can give you specific advice on making sure your mouth remains healthy through the course of your pregnancy, increasing the odds of a healthy, uneventful delivery for you and a healthy start for your child.
If we see problems such as tooth decay, we may need to take x-rays to properly diagnose them. Necessary x-rays are safe when done with all the proper protections in place. Likewise, dental work that can’t be delayed is safe – even extractions – although it’s best to wait until after the first trimester. The second semester is actually best because, by the third trimester, you may find it uncomfortable to recline for too long. .
If you have any concerns at all about dental treatment while you’re carrying, be sure to let us know so we can do all we can to answer your questions and make your visits as positive and comfortable as possible.
Oral Hygiene at Home During Pregnancy
Of course, most of the work of maintaining a healthy mouth happens at home.
While nobody needs fluoride – a known neurotoxin – it’s especially important to steer clear of it during pregnancy. Mounting evidence shows that a mother’s intake of fluoride during pregnancy can result in cognitive deficits for her young, usually measured through IQ, with little dental benefit.
So if you’ve been using fluoridated toothpaste or mouth rinse, now is the time to stop. If you’re not already drinking fluoride-free water, it’s time to switch to spring water (ideally, one low in naturally occurring fluoride) or invest in a filtration system proven to remove fluoride. (Not all of them do, especially pitcher filters.) This guide can help you choose the filtration option that’s best for you. (That website also has some great tools for identifying fluoride-free products, including bottled water.)
After that, the usual rules of oral hygiene apply: Brush twice a day, floss once, and/or use interdental brushes or a water flosser to clean between your teeth and at the gum line. If your gums are sore, warm salt water rinses can be helpful, as can oil pulling with coconut oil.
Likewise, the usual rules of healthy eating apply: Limit added sugars and acidic drinks (you’ll find lists of representative drinks here). Go all in on meals prepared from whole foods and minimally processed ingredients, including lots of fresh produce.
And if you’re in New Jersey and have any questions at all about the oral health aspect of your and your baby’s help, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to help!