How do I best care for my teeth during pregnancy? Does morning sickness damage my teeth?
– Question from Marie in Brisbane’s CBD, Brisbane
For a change, this article is not answered by our dentists, rather Chanelle, our very own Hygienist answers one of our frequently asked questions touching on her own first hand experiences as well.
Chanelle Winterburn replies:
For those of you who have not met me yet, I am a Dental Hygienist/ Oral Health Therapist at Today’s Dentistry!
At the time of writing this article I am 35 weeks pregnant with my first child. I suffered through severe morning sickness and following this experience I wanted to share some of the things I have learnt about dental health care and dental problems during pregnancy.
The effect of pregnancy on teeth, gums and dental health
My first piece of advice if you are planning to have a baby or are already pregnant, is that it is important to see your dentist early and maintain good dental hygiene throughout your pregnancy.
Pregnancy has many symptoms and side effects to all parts of your body and your oral health is no different. Pregnancy not only can lead to gum problems and an increased risk of tooth decay for the mother to be, but dental issues such as these can also affect a developing baby!
Causes of dental problems during pregnancy
A pregnant woman has to put up with many adverse side effects of a pregnancy. Here are the main ones that can cause problems with your teeth during pregnancy:
- Vomiting during morning sickness
- Food cravings – particularly indulging your sweet tooth
- Inability to brush due to gagging
- Gum problems
Gum problems and bleeding gums during pregnancy
During pregnancy, your increased hormone levels affect your body’s response to plaque. Plaque is the germ layer on our teeth.
These changes often lead to symptoms including swollen and bleeding gums, particularly when brushing or flossing your teeth. If left undiagnosed and untreated, this can lead to chronic gum diseases and tooth loss.
Research has also shown a direct link between gum disease in pregnant women and premature babies with low birth weight. It is estimated 18 out of every 100 premature births may be triggered by periodontal disease of the gums.
Tooth decay during pregnancy and morning sickness
Vomiting can damage your teeth as it coats your teeth with stomach acid. For this reason do not brush your teeth immediately after vomiting as the enamel is softer and can be more easily damaged.
Instead rinse with water and rub fluoride toothpaste on your teeth (if you can stomach the taste!). Brush your teeth at least an hour after vomiting as this will allow time for the acid to neutralise.
Food cravings and dental care during pregnancy
Food cravings and regular snacking on high sugar foods or acidic foods can cause damage to your teeth. Try and aim for low sugar snacks instead and drink water after you eat them.
Dental research around pregnancy and early childhood
Chewing gum that contains xylitol during pregnancy changes the ratio of bacteria in the mum’s mouth, thereby reducing the amount of bacteria that causes decay. Research has shown that there has then been 70% less cavities in the mouths of 5 year olds studied.
Research has also revealed that probiotics, given to your baby, in the first year of your child’s life, will not only prevent some childhood illnesses but also reduce the risk of decay dramatically for your child throughout their lifetime. There are some health benefits when probiotics are consumed during the pregnancy too. Speak to your doctor, obstetrician or pediatrician for more advice pertaining probiotics.
You are less likely to have dental problems during pregnancy if you maintain good dental health practices.
My top tips for dental care during pregnancy
- See your dentist regularly. If you are planning to fall pregnant it is easier to get treatment and X-Ray’s done prior to conceiving. If you are already pregnant or there is a chance you might be pregnant then let your dentist know so they can take any precautions to keep your baby safe. This will also let them prioritise your urgent dental treatment around your pregnancy and the birth.
- Brush your teeth twice daily. Good dental cleaning at home will prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
- Floss between your teeth. Our toothbrush cannot access the areas where our teeth touch so flossing is an important part of your dental health.
- Balanced diet. Limit sugary and acidic snacks and increase your calcium and water intake.