Taking care of gums and teeth is especially important during pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones, morning sickness, reflux and sugary food cravings can increase your risk of oral health problems but there are various ways you can keep your gums and teeth healthy.
Due to hormonal changes, the risk of gum disease and tooth decay increases during pregnancy. This usually happens 2 months into your pregnancy.
Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) is a common type of gum disease in pregnancy that is caused by bacteria. Research suggests that this bacteria may be passed to a developing foetus and can lead to premature birth (baby is born too early) or delivering a low birth weight baby (newborn is too small).
Signs of gum disease include: sore, puffy, red or bleeding gums. Keep gums healthy to prevent gum disease with a good oral health routine of regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing. You may find it helpful to switch to a softer toothbrush.
Morning sickness or reflux
The acid in vomit or reflux can damage tooth enamel and erode (eat away at) teeth.
This is surprising to most people but you should avoid brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes after a vomiting or reflux because brushing immediately is harsh on the teeth and can quickly damage the surface of your teeth.
Instead, you can protect your teeth after vomiting or reflux with these tips which neutralise the acid:
- Rinse your mouth immediately after vomiting or reflux with tap water, fluoride mouth rinse, or a homemade mouth rinse of baking soda (1 teaspoon of baking soda to 1 cup of water).
- Chew sugar-free gum.
- Smear a small amount of fluoride toothpaste over your teeth with your finger.
- Drink or eat dairy such as milk or cheese.
Sweet food cravings
Cravings for sugary foods or drinks are common during pregnancy but these types of foods can increase your risk of tooth decay. Try to eat low-sugar foods or healthier alternatives such as fresh fruit.
If the temptation is too great and you eat sugary foods or drinks, protect your teeth by brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, rinsing your mouth with tap water or rinsing your mouth with a fluoride mouthrinse afterwards.
Calcium for your baby’s developing teeth and gums
Calcium is one of the most important minerals for a healthy pregnancy.
Make sure to include calcium-rich foods in your diet such as cheese, yoghurt and milk, which will help your baby develop strong teeth and gums (as well as bones).
Are dental procedures during pregnancy safe?
A dental check is one of the health checks you should get before you’re pregnant and making regular visits to your dentist during and after your pregnancy is just as important as seeing a doctor.
Visiting a dentist or getting dental procedures while you’re pregnant is completely safe for you and your baby. Don’t forget to let your dentist know that you’re pregnant at the beginning of your consultation.
Some dental procedures, such as root canal or wisdom teeth removal, and dental x-rays are usually avoided during pregnancy. But if they are required then your dentist will take special care. For example, although radiation from dental x-rays are very low, your dentist may cover your stomach with a protective apron to minimise radiation exposure to you and your baby.