Pregnancy and Oral Health

Healthy Teeth and a Happy Pregnancy

Congratulations – you’re going to have a baby!  This special time in your life calls for special attention to your health and well-being – and that includes your dental health.  Just as the condition of your teeth and gums affects much of your overall health, so too does it affect your well-being during pregnancy.  At Bite Dental, we’re well-versed in the particular needs of the expectant moms we treat, so be sure to let us know as soon as you know the good news!  In fact, if you are thinking about starting a family, we suggest you schedule a dental exam and cleaning before you become pregnant.  This will give us time to identify and correct any problems that might otherwise get in the way of your happy pregnancy.

How Does My Oral Health Affect My Baby?

You may be wondering why all this concern over teeth and gums, at a time when you just want to focus on the bringing the new baby into the world.  However, just as your dental health affects other aspects of your life, it can affect your baby, too.  Studies have shown that pregnant women with periodontal or gum disease have a greater risk of giving birth to  a premature, low birth weight baby.  If the gum disease worsens during pregnancy, the risk increases.  The mechanism for this is not completely understood, but research suggests that the infected, inflamed gums spur the body to produce biological fluids that trigger labour.  For these reasons, we recommend working with your dentist to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy.

Can Being Pregnant Make My Dental Problems Worse?

There are several ways in which pregnancy can influence your dental health – and one big way in which it won’t!  You’ve probably heard the old saying that being pregnant causes calcium loss to your teeth.  Nope, not going to happen.  Your diet is what provides the calcium needed for your baby’s healthy development, not your teeth.  However, if your dietary calcium is inadequate, the needs of your baby are met by taking calcium from your bones.  It’s important to supply your meals with plenty of calcium-rich foods, or take a supplement if your doctor recommends it.

Another way that pregnancy can influence your oral health is by giving you the munchies.  The urge to snack between meals is common to many pregnant women.  That is normal, and it’s important to resist grabbing those carb-laden goodies that seem so satisfying right now.  The carbs and sugars often found in snack food provide a nice meal for the tooth decay-causing bacteria that live in your mouth.  Instead of a cookie, why not reach for some fresh fruit and yogurt for your snack?  You’ll get plenty of vitamins, calcium, and protein – all of which will help your baby develop in a healthful way, with strong teeth, too!

Pregnancy hormones can cause trouble with your gums.  The elevated levels of progesterone that go with pregnancy seem to increase the way the gums react to the plaque that builds up on your teeth due to bacterial action.  This can result in a condition called pregnancy gingivitis, in which the gums become red and inflamed, and may even bleed. Pay special attention to keeping your teeth clean at this time, particularly near the gum line.  This will reduce, and may even prevent, the discomfort of pregnancy gingivitis.

There’s also a condition with the unappealing name of ‘pregnancy tumours’.  These lumps on the gums result from an overgrowth of gum tissue.  They typically appear during the second trimester, and show up as red, raw growths that bleed easily.  They usually resolve after the baby is born.  It’s believed that pregnancy tumours are another hormone-triggered reaction to plaque that builds up between the teeth.  If you experience these lumps, consult with your dentist.

I Need Dental Work – Will it Hurt my Baby?

Schedule your check-ups and other dental work, to the extent possible, during the fourth to sixth month of your pregnancy.  Experience has shown this to be an ideal window  – not so early that it might impact your baby’s development, and not so late that you’ll have to endure the discomfort of lengthy sitting in a dentist’s chair!

This of course is the ideal.  In the real world, things happen and sometimes there is no choice but to see your dentist to treat an emergency.  Be sure to inform your dentist of the pregnancy when your make the appointment.  Be sure to discuss your medical history, including any prior pregnancies or miscarriages, with your dentist.  Your dentist may wish to consult with the doctor who is supervising your pregnancy.  If you have any special concerns, you might want to consult with them as well.

The biggest concerns for dentistry during pregnancy are use of x-rays, anaesthesia, and pain medication.

Sometimes situations can’t wait until after birth, especially with dental infections that pose a risk to the developing baby. If we can avoid it we will, but with proper shielding using both a leaded apron and a leaded thyroid collar, you and your baby can be protected from the low-level radiation used in dental x-rays.  If anaesthesia and pain meds are needed, your dentist will take your pregnancy into consideration when prescribing or administering these.  If you’ve been given a prescription for pain medication to take at home be sure to follow the dosage and don’t exceed it.   Anti-inflammatories to relieve tooth ache such as neurofen or advil can’t be taken at all.

The need for good oral care never goes away.  While you are pregnant, it’s important to eat foods that are good for your teeth as well as for your baby-to-be.  Keep up with your good habits of daily brushing and flossing.  At Bite Dental, we are happy to provide you with instructions for home care during this special time, and we’ll gladly answer any questions you may have.  Working together, we can assure that you’ll have a beautiful smile to go with your joy over the new arrival!

Get a Dental Exam if you are planning to get Pregnant

Starting a family can be a wonderful experience and the last thing you want to worry about is dental health!  However, pregnancy does bring its fair share of hormonal trouble that can cause the gums to bleed and become inflamed.  Spongy and soft gums are prone to plaque and infection so be sure to maintain good oral health during pregnancy.

Concerns associated with dental treatment during pregnancy

Dentists will normally not recommend dental care treatment while you are pregnant, unless it is an emergency dental procedure such as a tooth extraction or root canal treatment.  Here are a few points to note:

  • Cavity fillings and crowns can be done safely however in the third trimester you may find it difficult to lie on your back for a long time.
  •  Elective procedures such as teeth whitening can be delayed until your baby is born as these are not emergency dental treatments.
  • During treatment the amount of anaesthesia or medication administered needs to be monitored carefully as it can affect the developing baby. Further, if you experience excess discomfort, your baby is also stressed.
  • Normally during the first and third trimester x-rays are avoided as baby’s organ development can be hampered. Small dental X-rays are possible with proper shielding with lead aprons but its best to be safe rather than sorry.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications to control dental pain cannot be taken.

Pro-active steps you can take to ensure good oral health

While there are concerns relating to dental care treatments during pregnancy, the good news is that there are several steps you can take to maintain oral health.  Firstly, plan ahead and get regular exams done prior to becoming pregnant. This will ensure that you don’t have any serious dental problems that you need to treat while you are pregnant. Remember to schedule teeth cleaning appointments with your dental hygienist so your teeth remain healthy and infection-free.  There are studies that suggest that gum disease can lead to low birth weight babies, premature birth and other related complications. Therefore, your safest bet would be to get a dental exam to rule out any underlying problem.

Keep your dentist informed of your situation

Once you find out about your pregnancy, inform us at Bite Dental so we can give you dental hygiene advice as you progress along.  Your dental hygienist can offer tips on the best toothpastes and tooth brushes in the market.  Further, if you do have a dental problem that requires treatment we can suggest the best course of action for both you and your baby.  While you are pregnant you can continue your regular dental hygienist appointments and check ups as it will help you nip any problems in the bud before they escalate to a serious condition.

At Bite Dental Studios, we understand that this is an amazing and exciting time in your life. This is why we take special care to ensure that both you and your baby remain safe and healthy during any dental treatment.  Contact the dentist Brisbane if you are planning to start a family so we can give you a complete dental exam.

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