When you talk to most people about how to have a healthy pregnancy, taking good care of their oral health rarely comes up. However, there are several reasons the state of your mouth should be top of mind — for your health and your baby’s.
Daniel Park, DDS, of Beaumont Cherry Valley Dental in Beaumont, California, strongly believes that education and preventive care play essential roles in optimal dental health. And part of that involves helping expectant mothers understand how their oral health impacts them and their baby.
If you’re pregnant, here’s what you need to know about your oral health.
Pregnancy and your mouth
You may not associate your mouth with pregnancy or delivering a healthy baby, but they’re intimately connected.
To start, pregnancy causes hormone changes in the body that make a woman more vulnerable to gum disease. It also frequently causes morning sickness, which can weaken your tooth enamel and put you at risk of developing cavities.
Plus, many pregnant women snack more often throughout the day. Finally, pregnancy often causes exhaustion, which can lead women to skip brushing and flossing. All of these factors can lead to serious oral health problems.
An estimated 60-75% of pregnant women have gingivitis — the earliest stage of gum disease. This may not seem concerning, but the bacteria and inflammation in your mouth from gum disease doesn’t stay there. Instead, it enters your bloodstream and circulates throughout your entire system, including your developing baby if you’re pregnant.
Even the earliest stages of gum disease can have adverse effects on a pregnancy, including preterm deliveries and low birth weight. And your risks don’t end once you deliver. If you have excessive bacteria in your mouth, you can pass it on to your newborn baby, a process known as vertical transmission.
Because of this, if you have poor oral health when expecting, it increases your child’s chances of developing cavities and needing extensive dental care, even at a very young age.
Oral health care during pregnancy
Now for the good news: All oral health care, including radiographs and local anesthetic, is completely safe during pregnancy. In fact, you can even undergo emergency treatments, such as root canals, extractions, and restorations, while pregnant. This is important to know, because delaying treatment can lead to more serious problems.
Generally speaking, Dr. Park recommends doing four specific things while pregnant.
Schedule a dental appointment
Since pregnancy increases your chances of developing cavities and gum disease, it’s essential to visit your dentist to check for signs of a problem. And, you can still pass oral bacteria to your baby after delivering, so it’s best to do this before your due date.
Practice good oral hygiene every day
You may be busy getting ready for your baby, but don’t skimp on brushing twice a day and flossing. This daily habit is the best tool for keeping harmful bacterial growth at bay.
Rinse your mouth
Struggling with morning sickness? If you do, rinse your mouth with a glass of water and one teaspoon of baking soda afterward. This quick “wash” can help flush acid away and protect your tooth enamel.
Choose the right supplements
Another important aspect of prenatal care involves taking vitamins with folic acid to support the baby’s health and development. However, when choosing your supplements, make sure to avoid anything labeled gummy or chewy, especially if you take them before bed or after brushing your teeth. These types of supplements often contain sugar and may stick to your teeth, which may cause decay and damage.
Oral health after pregnancy
After delivery, it’s time to think about the oral health of your little one, too. Dr. Park can offer personalized recommendations to protect your child’s teeth at every stage of life. However, you can start them off on the right track with a few simple steps.
Clean their mouth
Even if your baby only has gums visible, they still should get cleaned. Dr. Park suggests wiping them with a soft, clean cloth after their first feeding and again before bed. This removes sugars and bacteria that can cause cavities.
Start brushing early
Did your baby’s first tooth just come in? It’s time to start brushing it twice a day! It only takes a tiny smear of toothpaste — the size of a grain of rice — but it will set the foundation for a lifelong commitment to good oral health care.
Schedule a dental appointment
Believe it or not, your baby should see the dentist by their first birthday. That way, Dr. Park can identify any signs of a problem early. And, like brushing, regular dental appointments can help build healthy habits that last a lifetime.
Are you expecting? Make your oral health a priority for you and your baby. To learn more, call 951-845-2661 to book an appointment with Beaumont Cherry Valley Dental today.