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Maintaining good oral health during pregnancy might be the last thing on your mind as you deal with food cravings and morning sickness. However it’s important to look after your teeth. The Australian Dental Association (ADA) has developed a fact sheet with tips and advice to help you maintain good oral health during your pregnancy.
If you’re planning on becoming pregnant it’s important to visit your dentist and have a check-up. Routine dental treatment can be done safely during pregnancy. However, tell your dentist and/or dental therapist if you think you may be pregnant. It’s important to avoid X-rays during pregnancy.
If you are already pregnant, don’t avoid visiting the dentist. It’s important to check that your teeth and gums are healthy. Ensure you advise your dentist that you are pregnant when scheduling your appointment. Your dentist may recommend a dental check-up during your second trimester. That’s because morning sickness has usually subsided in most women.
It’s not unusual to experience food cravings and even food aversions during pregnancy. If your craving is for sugary snacks, you may increase your risk of tooth decay. As much as possible, try to snack on low sugar foods. If only sweet snacks will satisfy your craving, try to choose some healthier options such as fresh fruits and yoghurts. Ideally, eat snacks as close as possible to meal times and brush your teeth after each meal. If you consume sweet snacks outside of meal times, try to rinse your mouth by drinking water or milk, which can help wash away decay causing sugars from your teeth.
It is estimated that 80 percent of pregnant women will experience some form of morning sickness during their pregnancy. Looking after your teeth might be the last thing on your mind while in the throes of morning sickness however, doing so can help prevent longer term problems with your teeth.
If you are vomiting or experiencing reflux on a regular basis, your teeth will be exposed to strong stomach acids, which can cause dental erosion.
To help minimise the risk of erosion and decay try the following:
If you find that brushing your teeth, particularly your molars, causes you to gag, try the following:
Research has found that a mother’s oral health can have an influence on the future oral health of her child.
You are the most influential role model in the development of your child’s good oral health behaviours. Maintaining your own good oral health reduces the risk of decay in your child.
During pregnancy your gums can become more sensitive to bacterial irritation and inflammation. Increased hormone levels can cause gums to become particularly sensitive to the bacterial irritants found in plaque.
Inflammation affecting gums is called gingivitis. Pregnancy gingivitis is more likely to occur during the second trimester. Signs include redness, swelling of the gums and bleeding, particularly during brushing and flossing your teeth. Gingivitis can often be treated with brushing and flossing.
Infection of the deeper gum tissue around the tooth is known as periodontitis. If periodontitis develops, gums and teeth will be left with permanent damage and you may even suffer tooth loss.
Pregnancy may exacerbate periodontitis, and there is a link between periodontitis and premature birth and low birth weight babies.
It is essential to practise good oral hygiene before, during and after pregnancy. It is important to see your dentist regularly for individualised advice.
For more information on caring for your teeth visit the New Zealand Dental Association Healthy Smiles website.