Like all busy Sydney mums-to-be know, a pregnant woman has a million thoughts running through her head. Baby names. Bizarre cravings. Nursery colours. Prenatal check-ups. Pram options. Swollen ankles.
In the case of most mums-to-be, oral health doesn’t make it to their list of concerns. Nevertheless, what many expectant mothers in Sydney don’t realise is that taking care of their teeth and gums is even more important during pregnancy.
Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t neglect your oral health when you’re carrying a pea in the pod.
Pregnancy involves many stressors, but most expectant mums are not aware that the nine months preceding their bub’s arrival are also a tough time for their gums. An estimated 50-70 percent of pregnant women experience inflammation of the gums, or gingivitis, which involves red, sometimes swollen gums that bleed easily.
The reason for this condition is an increased level of progesterone, a crucial pregnancy hormone that promotes the growth of gingivitis-causing bacteria and makes the gum tissue more sensitive to plaque. If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into a more serious periodontal disease that can lead to tooth loss and other complications. Studies indicate that women with chronic gum disease are more likely to deliver premature and underweight babies than mums with healthy gums.
The trick to keeping pregnancy gingivitis at bay is to maintain good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice a day, floss thoroughly every day, rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash and get a thorough cleaning at the dentist to prevent plaque build-up.
Pregnancy tumours are red or purple lumps that form on the gums, often near the upper gum line or between the teeth. Ten percent of women develop them during pregnancy, usually during the second trimester.
Despite their name, pregnancy tumours are not cancerous and usually disappear on their own after pregnancy. They bleed easily and may form open sores. If they are a cause of serious discomfort or prevent you from chewing, they can be removed under local anaesthesia. Good oral hygiene habits help prevent pregnancy-related benign tumours.
Check-Ups at the Dentist
Being pregnant is not a reason to stop seeing your dentist. You should schedule regular check-ups and cleanups preferably during the second trimester or early in the third trimester. Remember to tell your dentist that you’re expecting and describe any changes in your oral health.
Some medications used by your dentist, such as penicillin, are safe for limited use during pregnancy. However, some medications, such as tetracycline, can be harmful to the foetus and should not be used to treat a pregnant woman.
Dental X-rays should be taken only in emergencies. If they are necessary, your dentist will cover your abdomen with a protective apron and use a thyroid collar to protect your throat. All elective procedures, such as teeth whitening or veneers, should be postponed until the baby is born.
The sugary cravings and constant snacking that are so common during pregnancy can wreak havoc on your oral health. The more frequently you eat, the greater the chance that you’ll develop tooth decay. The bacteria that cause tooth decay can be passed onto your baby—another good reason to resist the constant cravings.
Keep in mind also that your baby’s first teeth start growing when the foetus is about three months old. To ensure your baby’s teeth, gums and bones are getting all the nutrients they need, be sure to eat a balanced diet that contains calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt.
Do you have any questions on oral health during pregnancy? Call Quality Dental at (02) 9922 1159 to schedule an appointment with Dr Luke Cronin.