How to Protect Teeth During Pregnancy
During pregnancy a woman’s body changes dramatically, from the obvious shape changes as the foetus grows, to the unseen hormonal changes.
It’s the changes caused by hormones that have the greatest impact on your teeth when you are pregnant.
Your saliva changes, your jawbone density may change and so too does your appetite. These all add up to a whole lot of stuff going on that you might not notice until something bad happens.
You can choose to carry on as normal and hope for the best. That actually does work for some women.
Or find out what to expect and be ready, just in case.
Let’s start with a few tips that will help you with your teeth while pregnant.
Pregnancy Dental Tips
- Brush thoroughly with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day. The fluoride helps fight the bacteria in your mouth.
- Floss between your teeth daily. Your saliva has changed so you need to make sure you get the gunk off your teeth.
- Visit your dentist, when you are first trying and when you become pregnant.
- Stop smoking. There is professional help available to help you if you’re struggling.
- Get help from your dentist or hygienist if you’re having trouble with controlling plaque.
- Rinse your mouth with water thoroughly after morning sickness vomiting and wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth.
- When hungry, choose to snack on healthy options like carrots, celery, cucumber, ham, tuna, salmon, tuna, cheese and yoghurt to reduce risks of tooth decay.
- Get your workout from low impact exercise such as walking, yoga, pilates and swimming. Your joints will thank you.
- Avoid diet drinks, they are highly acidic and will erode tooth enamel.
- Don’t drink alcohol. The sugars in alcohol will cause tooth decay, plus alcohol is easily passed along to the foetus, where it causes harm.
Going to the Dentist During Pregnancy
Women often ask “Can you go to the dentist when pregnant?” and the answer is most definitely “Yes”.
It’s especially important to visit your dentist when you’re dealing with hormone changes and cravings – they can put your oral health at greater risk.
Your dentist may recommend making several appointments during your pregnancy so they can monitor your oral health and treat problems early.
Dentists who specialise in family and paediatric dentistry will also recommend appointments when you are planning to get pregnant. This helps you and your dentist to manage outstanding dental issues before you are pregnant.
Once you are pregnant the risk of complications with existing problems and new conditions increases substantially. During pregnancy, your dentist will want to minimise any discomfort to you and arrange appointments that best fit with the different stages of your pregnancy.
It’s critically important that you tell the dental staff that you are pregnant at the time of booking your appointment and when you see your dentist for your appointment.
Your hormones fluctuate during pregnancy, which can cause problems with your teeth and gums. Oral health changes can happen quickly and unexpectedly, so regular visits can help prevent serious dental conditions.
Your dentist is also knowledgeable in the medications you can safely take while pregnant, and which treatments can be safely done during the different stages of your pregnancy.
During the first trimester your unborn baby is still developing their vital organs. This is a high-risk period during which your dentist will want to avoid doing anything that could result in side effects for your baby.
Your dentist may recommend some additional cleanings during your second trimester and early third trimester to help control gingivitis.
If your last visit to the dentist was more than 6 months before pregnancy or you notice any changes in your mouth – book an appointment right away.
Always let your dentist know how far along you are when you see them, and tell them of any change in the medications you are taking or if you have received any special advice from your doctor.
Pregnancy Dental Calendar
The Pregnancy Dental Calendar is your guide to when pregnancy can affect your teeth.
A chart of early pregnancy symptoms that may affect your teeth and some tips on what you can do.
Every woman experiences pregnancy differently. The calendar timeline is a guide only.
|Week 3 – You notice your food preferences change as cravings start to kick in.Cravings for savoury foods are strongest during the first trimester, while your chocolate and sweet cravings are most intense during the second trimester. Cravings usually decline as the pregnancy progresses to term.
The greatest challenge with cravings is they change your regular eating routine. The regular three meals per day can turn into constant grazing and irregular snacking.
When you’re frequently snacking, you are increasing the bacteria in your mouth that create acids as well as reducing the effectiveness of your saliva; which needs time to swish away the acids.
To help combat the problems caused by snacking, chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva flow, drink water and choose nutritious foods, such as cheese, yoghurt, asparagus, carrots, tofu, almonds, avocado, salmon and apples.
|Week 5 – Nausea, salivating more than usual and feeling tired, signal the start of morning sickness.Ptyalism, Hypersalivation or excessive salivating is a distressing and uncomfortable condition. Apart from making the skin around your mouth sore, it can also make your feel queasy.
In Japan, Alpinia Oxyphylla also known as Black Cardamom is traditionally used to help reduce saliva production. Other suggested remedies that are teeth friendly include sucking on ice cubes and brushing your teeth with toothpaste.
|Week 12 – Gums are more sensitive and may bleed when flossing and brushing.Changing estrogen and progesterone levels during pregnancy make your gums more sensitive to the bacteria in plaque. This causes gums to swell, look red and feel tender. This form of inflamed gum disease is commonly called Pregnancy Gingivitis.
Prevention is better than cure when it comes to gingivitis. Brush twice daily, floss between teeth and use a toothpaste containing fluoride. Gargling with a sea-salt solution (one teaspoon of sea salt in one cup of warm water), swish it around in your mouth and spit out.
For some women this may not be enough and they will need specialist help from a dentist. A dentist can clean and treat gums and teeth. They can also prescribe fluoride gels, mouthwashes and in extreme cases, antibiotics; to use at home.
|Week 15 – Entering the safe period for dental treatment.The best time for dental treatments when pregnant is during the second trimester. The vital organs of the foetus have developed to a stage where the risk of side effects is greatly reduced. It is also when nausea from morning sickness is less and size of your bump is not so big yet, that sitting in the dental chair for more than a few minutes is unbearable.
Whether you have a toothache, bleeding gums or everything is fine. Getting in early and booking an appointment that fits with your pregnancy calendar is a great idea. Do it early so you don’t miss out on this valuable window of opportunity.
|Week 22 – Sweet cravings are in full swing.Chocolate is the most commonly craved sweet food during pregnancy.
Currently there are plenty of sensational headlines about dark chocolate being good for teeth and fighting tooth decay. The truth is that it is only the bitter ingredient (theobromine) that can potentially strengthen tooth enamel under laboratory conditions. The fats and sugars in chocolate are still bad for your teeth and help the bacteria that causes tooth decay to thrive.
Waiting 10 – 20 minutes for the chocolate cravings to go away isn’t something that everyone can do.
Going for alternatives like nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter), maple syrup for sweetening, drinking coconut water or nibbling carob can help.
Making your own sweet alternatives to chocolate is a great way to handle cravings. It will also ensure that you don’t accidentally have too much caffeine or any of the things that are better avoided while pregnant. Please just remember to brush your teeth afterwards.
What Can Happen to Teeth During Pregnancy – How Pregnancy Can Affect Teeth
One of the most noticeable changes that can happen to your teeth in pregnancy is discolouration. Teeth turning yellow or getting brown or dark stains, is caused by increased plaque covering your teeth.
Morning sickness, fatigue and sensitive bleeding gums can all contribute to slipping attention in your daily oral care routine. Getting help from your dentist or dental hygienist can help you get rid of the stains and give you better ways to look after your teeth during this special time.
Pregnancy gingivitis in particular needs more attention because of the risks associated with periodontal disease and its potential harm to your unborn baby. It’s important to see a dental hygienist or your dentist if gum inflammation and bleeding feels out of control.
Dental Pregnancy tumours or Pregnancy Granulomas are non-cancerous growths caused by the inflammatory response of your gums to local irritants such as bacterial plaque or calculus/tartar. They are more common after the third month of pregnancy and it is important to visit your dentist should pregnancy tumours appear. Any treatment you might need may be possible before your due date.
The lack of sleep and stress of pregnancy can make bruxism – teeth grinding and clenching more pronounced. Causing insomnia, headaches, TMJ jaw pain, ear pain, aching teeth and tooth nerve pain.
A night guard, called an Occlusal Splint, will protect your teeth from the damage of grinding. However if the guard becomes uncomfortable and you stop wearing it, your teeth will be unprotected.
For your teeth this can result in cracked or chipped teeth – conditions that may not require immediate attention from a dentist ordinarily.
When pregnant though, the increased risks caused by pregnancy hormones, can mean you require professional intervention – a cap or temporary filling for example.
The higher levels of Progesterone and Estrogen in your body when pregnant can affect the muscles, tissues and bones that keep your teeth in place.
It is not uncommon for women to express concern about wobbly teeth, or feeling that teeth are moving, shifting or loose.
Talk to your doctor about calcium supplements and visit your dentist. You want to make sure this isn’t something more serious. The last thing anyone wants is for your pregnancy to cause teeth falling out.
These increased hormones also increase the blood supply to your gums making them and your teeth a lot more sensitive. In some cases the blood flow can be so greatly increased that it places pressure on the teeth making them throbbingly painful.
Bleeding gums and teeth are also a symptom of oral infections. To avoid harmful complications, seek a professional opinion from your dentist.
Complaints about teeth sensitivity, weird tingling, aching, pain and general hurting are also sadly common during pregnancy.
The sensation can be anything from throbbing pain to teeth tingling. It could be all your teeth, one side of your mouth or just a few teeth.
The sensitivity can even fluctuate. One day hurting like crazy and the next completely gone.
Rinsing with salt water can help with aching and sore gums.
Swap to a toothpaste for sensitive teeth and use a soft bristled toothbrush, to reduce sensitivity and aching in your teeth.
When your teeth are causing you pain over weeks, seeing a dentist can help. Your dentist is able to give you additional advice on what you can do, as well as help with any extra oral care tips and techniques.
Slightly less common is breaking teeth. Some women have sudden and unexpected breaks in their back teeth (molars). In most cases the situation is caused by minor existing problems that quickly turn into bigger problems because of pregnancy hormonal changes.
A visit to the dentist when it happens can prevent other more serious and painful outcomes if left unattended.
In many cases of dental emergencies during pregnancy, a pre-existing problem that wasn’t causing any pain turns serious.
A patient noticed a small hole before becoming pregnant and decided to wait to fix it. After 20 weeks of morning sickness, the small hole became the entry point for a whole lot of decay. Then suddenly a piece of the tooth completely broke off. Fortunately she was in her second trimester and crown could be fitted.
Pregnancy, Dentistry and Your Baby’s Safety
Research suggests the harmful bacteria from tooth decay while you are pregnant can be transferred to your baby.
Poor dental oral care habits during pregnancy have been associated with premature delivery, intrauterine growth restriction, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
So the consequences of not treating tooth decay during pregnancy may outweigh the possible risks of the medications and anaesthetic used during dental treatment. Your dentist can best advise you on treatments.
Seeing a dental hygienist to give your teeth a thorough clean while you are pregnant can help with increased microbial activity. They can also recommend adjustments to your oral care routine to make it easier for you to manage at home and on your own.
After your baby is born, you can still pass these bacteria to your child through kissing and other contact; such as shared saliva on utensils.
Another dental condition which has risks for your unborn baby, are dental abscesses.
Dental abscesses during pregnancy are serious and can have fatal consequence for your unborn child. You need to seek immediate medical and dental attention if you develop any type of oral or mouth infection.
A controversial topic when it comes to dental care during pregnancy is the safety of X-Rays for the foetus.
There are many myths surrounding dental X-rays, but the truth is you are exposed to far more radiation on a single domestic plane flight than from a dental X-ray.
Health professionals take every precaution to minimise radiation in every case.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) guidelines state that there is no need on radiation protection grounds to defer dental radiography during pregnancy.
Modern standards in radiation exposure mean that dental x-rays during pregnancy are now low risk.
While the weight of the lead apron may be uncomfortable when you are pregnant it is necessary to protect your unborn child.
Getting Dental Treatments During Pregnancy
When it comes to dental treatments during pregnancy the number one concern for women is with anaesthesia.
General anaesthesia for sedation (that makes the person unconscious) affects people differently and is considered high risk during pregnancy.
Local anaesthesia for blocking (that numbs the area being treated) during the second trimester of pregnancy has the least risks for pregnant women.
It is vital that your dentist knows about your pregnancy and any medications and vitamins your doctor has prescribed before they begin any treatment.
Dental Treatments that are Possible While You are Pregnant
Cleaning and Scaling Teeth – is helpful for controlling plaque and the prevention of periodontal disease, though it may be more uncomfortable than on a regular visit.
Orthodontics – braces and Invisalign aligners can be uncomfortable because your gums are tender.
Root Canal – with local anesthetics in the dental chair, getting rid of the infection quickly is good for your baby’s health too.
Tooth Extraction – this is generally a last resort option in Australia. With most dentists preferring to preserve as much of your natural tooth wherever possible to avoid future complications.
Wisdom Tooth Removal – complications with “impacted” teeth make taking out wisdom teeth a “case by case” situation best decided by your dentist.
Risks of Teeth Whitening When Pregnant
Discolouration caused by increased plaque build-up during pregnancy can be unattractive and have “mum’s to be” reaching for the tooth whitening toothpaste and at home whitening kits.
Before you stick any of these chemicals in your mouth, you need to know that it is unclear whether teeth whitening is 100% safe during pregnancy.
The fact that manufacturers of teeth whitening products caution against their use during pregnancy makes it clear that there are risks.
Right now there is not even enough research data to state whether teeth whitening strips can harm the foetus or not.
When explored logically – exposure to the chemicals in household cleaners, insecticides, hair dye and self-tanners are all considered to be potential risks during pregnancy by healthcare professionals. But with no scientific evidence of harm, concerning the chemicals in teeth whiteners and teeth bleaches, you will find opinion divided on their risks during pregnancy.
Though most Australian medical professionals will warn against teeth whitening while pregnant because of uncertainty about the danger to your unborn baby.
Morning Sickness and Oral Care
Perimylolysis occurs when the teeth have acid erosion caused by vomiting of gastric contents. In simple words – it is when stomach acids in your morning sickness vomit end up in your mouth they do serious damage to your teeth.
After throwing up, make sure you rinse your mouth thoroughly with water. To freshen your mouth you can dilute a small amount of mouth rinse in water with 1 teaspoon of baking soda and swish that around. Wait for 30 minutes before you brush your teeth.
If you brush too soon after throwing up, it’s more likely that you’re just rubbing that acid all over the enamel of your teeth and not removing it. By waiting for 30 minutes until you brush your teeth, you’ll do a safer better clean for your teeth.
One of the biggest challenges when you are suffering from morning sickness is brushing your teeth. Everything from the feel of your toothbrush in your mouth to the scent and flavour of toothpaste can be retchingly awful.
It’s incredibly important that you maintain your oral care routine during pregnancy, so here are some tips to help you change what you’re doing that could help you keep brushing regularly.
- First start by slowing it all down.
- See if you can figure out a way to do it that feels OK.
- When that doesn’t work try changing the toothpaste (flavour or texture), change brushes (manual to electric, smaller head size, softer bristles, maybe even a silicone finger brush), change the time of day you brush.
- Next try making your mouth very moist by swishing around water before you go in with a brush.
If none of that works make an appointment with your Dental Hygienist and have a professional help you.Leave a reply →