Dental care should not stop because you’re pregnant. Hormonal changes in the body may affect your dental health. It may increase the risk of developing gum diseases, which can affect your newborn baby. During pregnancy, you also need to check for dental problems like tooth decay and cavities. Your dental health can affect you in various ways. So, getting a complete dental check-up during pregnancy is not only important but also essential for your overall health.
A] How Pregnancy Affects Your Dental Health?
- Increased Risk of Tooth Decay
Pregnant women are more prone to cavities and there are many reasons for this. If you have more carbs in your diet, it may cause tooth decay. Morning sickness is another reason, as the acid in your mouth increases, which could lead to tooth decay due to exposure.
Morning sickness causes other issues like tender gums and gag reflux. Poor oral habits may increase the chances of tooth decay. Skipping brushing your teeth or not properly flossing due to exhaustion can lead to tooth problems. Craving sweets can lead to tooth decay; so you need to be careful.
- Gum Disease
Pregnancy hormones can increase the chances of gum problems. In the second trimester, most women develop gingivitis. The symptoms may include swelling of gums and bleeding. It may cause periodontal disease, which may cause an infection in the structure supporting the tooth. If you ignore gum problems, it can take a severe form. Pregnancy can also cause pregnancy epulis – a form of swelling around the gum area that can bleed at times. If there is pain, you need to visit your dentist immediately for a periodontal examination.
- Craving for Sugary Foods
The majority of pregnant women crave sugary foods. Excessive sugar can lead to tooth decay and cavities. Another possible reason for the craving is low blood sugar level in the body. It is important to check your blood sugar level if you crave too much sugar. Some women also crave sugary sweets when they are feeling emotionally low. Having smaller meals throughout the day can help you manage your cravings.
- Gagging Session When Brushing the Teeth
Some pregnant women face the problem of gagging, especially while brushing the back teeth. They may also experience hypersensitivity, which is a natural gag reflex. It is vital to avoid gagging as it may cause tooth decay. Use a toothbrush with a small head, and take your time when you brush or floss your teeth. If the taste of the toothpaste is causing a gag session, it is crucial to switch to another brand. You can even brush your teeth with water and use a mouthwash with active fluoride later.
- Vomiting Due to Morning Sickness
Pregnancy hormones soften the muscles that keep the food inside the mouth. Vomiting associated with morning sickness can cover your teeth with strong acids. With repeated reflux, the surface of your tooth can get damaged, increasing the risk of tooth decay.
Avoid brushing your teeth after vomiting as it may damage the tooth enamel. Instead, rinse your mouth with tap water and use a mouthwash containing fluoride. You can also use a dash of toothpaste that contains fluoride. Smear it on your teeth and rinse them with water. Try waiting for an hour after vomiting before you brush your teeth.
- Pregnancy Tumours
Are you aware of pregnancy tumours? In some women, an overgrowth of tissues called ‘pregnancy tumours’ appears around the gum area. It happens mainly in the second trimester of pregnancy. The tumour is not cancerous, and the swelling occurs due to hormonal changes in the body.
It happens mainly because of the formation of excess plaque. The tumour bleeds and has a raspberry-like appearance, and it’s often tender when touched. However, these tumours may disappear after the birth of your baby. But if it causes any problem, the dentist may remove it with a surgical process.
B] Impact of Dental Treatments During Pregnancy
- Root Canal
If the tooth decay reaches the nerve endings of the tooth, it can be extremely painful. Root canal treatment effectively stops the pain by removing the infected tissue and restoring your tooth with a natural-looking crown. There is no need for tooth extraction in this procedure.
With a dental emergency like a root canal, the dentist can perform it at any stage of your pregnancy. You should not delay it if the condition is worse or else it may cause problems. The procedure involves dental X-rays, so the second trimester of pregnancy is the safest time for a root canal.
- Tooth Extractions
Most dentists try their best to save a tooth with a root canal treatment. Extraction is the last resort when no other option is left. If you damage your tooth due to decay or an injury, it could put your oral health at risk. Tooth extraction is safe and can be performed at any time. But if there is no emergency, it is ideal to wait for the second trimester. X-rays in the first trimester may be harmful to the baby and there will be discomfort lying down for many hours in the third trimester. So, it is safe to get your tooth extracted in the second trimester.
- Teeth Whitening
Teeth whitening is a harmless treatment that your dentist can perform during pregnancy. But some dentists recommend waiting until the delivery. Avoid teeth whitening and other cosmetic procedures during the third trimester of the pregnancy.
It may be uncomfortable for women to lie still for a long time while the dentist applies whitening gel. With the home teeth whitening kit, you should check the concentration of hydrogen peroxide as it should not be more than 6 percent. Higher concentration can cause damage to the tissue. If you’re not sure about the process, don’t try it at home as it can damage your teeth.
- Orthodontic Treatment
There is no problem in getting orthodontic treatment during pregnancy. You can get your braces fitted. Although, some dentists may recommend waiting till delivery. At times, there may be complications with the fitting part. Also, getting adult braces may require an X-ray. Your dentist will ask you to avoid it in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Some women experience swelling of facial tissues and gums during pregnancy, which may irritate the brace wires. If there is pain, your dentist can provide safe gels to numb the pain.
- Local Anaesthetics
Dental procedures during pregnancy can cause pain, so an anaesthetic can help you relax and alleviate the pain. For this, you need to inform your dentist about your pregnancy stage so that they can use a suitable anaesthetic level. Dentists usually use the lowest concentration of anaesthesia possible. But, talk to your dentist if you feel uncomfortable during a particular dental procedure.
C] Dental X-Rays During Pregnancy
Modern dental X-rays use low doses of radiation, and single-dose X-ray does not cause any adverse effect in the development of the fetus. Dentists make sure that the baby is shielded from radiation using the lead apron. Though X-rays are safe, some dentists still recommend avoiding them in the first trimester of the pregnancy. You can avoid an X-ray if you’re going for a routine dental check-up. If you have a dental emergency or extreme pain, X-rays could be the only option to help your dentist understand the root cause of the dental issue.
D] Dental Care While Pregnant
- Increase Calcium Intake
You will need to increase the amount of calcium in your diet during pregnancy. The right amount of calcium will protect your bones, teeth, and development needs of your baby. Include milk, cheese, yoghurt in your daily diet plan. Have different types of nuts that include almond and cashew. Leafy green veggies – spinach and kale are rich in calcium. You can also have calcium-fortified soy products or almond milk.
If you can’t have dairy products, choose food sources low in sugar. Healthy alternatives are available depending on your preference. Try getting at least 1000 mg calcium every day during pregnancy.
- Increase Vitamin D Intake
Vitamin D is effective in utilising calcium in the body. Small amounts of sun exposure can support vitamin D levels. You can also include various food sources of vitamin D.
- Vitamin D fortified milk, bread, and cereals.
- Fatty fish – salmon and mackerel – but discuss with your doctor about its intake.
- Margarine but in limited quantity. Eggs and mushrooms.
- Orange juice is vitamin D fortified and an excellent source of energy for the body.
- 10 microgram of vitamin D supplement. Consult with your doctor though.
- Follow Good Oral Hygiene
You should follow good oral hygiene practices to avoid complications during pregnancy. It includes brushing and flossing regularly, and using antimicrobial mouthwash. Professional teeth cleaning can also help. Don’t ignore gum disease or tooth-related problems in pregnancy. Your dentist may recommend antibiotics or treatment to avoid escalation of the issue. If there is tenderness or bleeding in the gums, talk to your dentist immediately.
- Don’t Skip Dental Check-up
You shouldn’t skip your dental check-up because of pregnancy. Regular check-up helps the dentist identify any complications before it becomes an issue. Pregnancy causes hormonal changes in the body that can put you at risk of periodontal disease and bleeding gums. More than 40% of women develop gingivitis during pregnancy, so an early check-up can cut your risk of developing the disease.
Further reading: Importance of Visiting the Dentist Every 6 Months
- Healthy Diet
You must focus on a healthy diet from the beginning as the baby’s first teeth develop within three-four months into pregnancy. A healthy diet should include dairy products, cheese, yoghurt, and foods with essential minerals and vitamins. Include all the food sources important for gum and bone health.
Further reading: Best And Worst Foods For Your Teeth
- Avoid Sugary Foods
Sweet cravings are common in pregnancy, but you should avoid sugary sweets. The more you consume sweet foods, the more you’ll increase your chance of developing tooth decay. Have natural fruits instead if you crave sugar.
If you visit the dentist, tell him you’re pregnant and inform him/her about the month. Tell the dentist the names and doses of medications if you’re in for a dental procedure. Don’t skip your dental check-up in pregnancy. Focus on good food habits and stay healthy because it is good to prevent the problem than treat it.
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