Morning sickness, tiredness, frequent urination, back pain, mood swings and bizarre food cravings are just a few of the unpleasant symptoms women may experience while pregnant. One of the lesser-known side effects that’s actually very common, is dental problems.
Looking after your teeth during pregnancy
Hormonal changes can make your gums more easily irritated and inflamed and put you at increased risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Providing you already have good hygiene habits however and maintain these during pregnancy, your teeth should stay healthy.
Why is dental hygiene important during pregnancy?
Research has found a link between gum disease in pregnant women and premature birth and low birth weight. Estimates suggest that up to 18 out of every 100 premature births may be triggered by periodontal disease. It’s thought that this is because the bacteria that causes inflammation in the gums can get into the bloodstream and target the foetus.
Another reason why dental hygiene is important during pregnancy is because of increased sugar cravings and for some women, frequent vomiting. We all know that sugar is bad for our teeth but being sick on a regular basis can cause serious damage as well. Vomit contains stomach acids which are corrosive enough to wear away the enamel that covers and protects our teeth.
It may seem logical to brush your teeth straight after being sick but the opposite is actually the case. Don’t brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after being sick or experiencing reflux. This gives the enamel enough time to recover from the acid attack. Simply just wash your mouth with water and smear some fluoride toothpaste on your teeth to refresh your mouth and help strengthen the enamel.
How to look after your teeth during pregnancy
Practicing good hygiene habits is the best way to look after your teeth regardless of whether you’re pregnant or not. It is however a good idea to pay particular attention to your brushing technique and how often you’re flossing while you’re pregnant. If you’re prone to dental problems, you may already have had dental implants inserted which will need checking throughout your pregnancy. Experienced dentists who can advise on dental implants around the UK will be able to ensure you keep on top of your dental health during your pregnancy.
To avoid plaque build-up, thoroughly clean your teeth and gums twice a day. Don’t brush too hard however because this can damage your gums. An electric or battery-operated tooth brush is your best bet because you simply place it on your gum line and move it from left to right applying light pressure.
If you’re eating sugary foods thanks to cravings, rinse your mouth out with tap water between meals. Brushing too regularly can be hard on the gums but the fluoride in tap water will help to keep them protected.
Gagging while brushing
Some women find they gag while brushing their teeth when they’re pregnant. If brushing makes you feel sick, try using a soft, small-headed toothbrush designed for children and brush later in the morning when you may not be feeling as nauseous. Concentrate on your breathing as you clean your back teeth as this should help you to gag less.
Increase your calcium intake
Increasing your calcium intake can help to protect your bone mass as well as meet the nutritional needs of your developing baby. Some great sources of calcium include milk, cheese (check which yoghurt and soy milk.
Get more vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body to utilise calcium. Some good sources include cheese, fortified margarine, fatty fish such as salmon and eggs. You can also take a vitamin D supplement but always talk to your doctor before taking any medication or supplements while you’re pregnant.
Drink tap water
For healthy teeth and gums, remember to drink plenty of tap water. The fluoride in tap water strengthens the teeth and helps to prevent decay. You don’t have to worry that the fluoride found in water or toothpaste will harm a developing baby.
See your dentist
Your dental health has a big impact on your overall health which naturally has a big influence on the health of your baby. Your dentist can help you to maintain the health of your teeth during pregnancy. If you’re not showing yet, make sure you tell your dentist that you’re pregnant because this will affect whether or not they give you x-rays and which medicine they prescribe you (if you need any).
Please note that pregnancy doesn’t automatically damage your teeth. Plenty of women don’t experience any issues whatsoever. If you’re concerned about your teeth or want to find out more, give your dentist a call and they’ll be able to advise you accordingly.