How Does Oral Health Affect Pregnancy?
The first priority for all soon-to-be-moms is the well-being of their babies. It turns out there is an often neglected, but crucial component of expecting moms' health that needs special attention. More and more scientists are starting to agree that good oral health is key to overall health. The same, of course, is true for the well-being of moms and babies.
If you are expecting a new family member (or know anyone who is) it's very important to educate yourself on the importance of taking proper care of your oral heath before, after and especially during pregnancy. And even though, losing a tooth during pregnancy due to lack of calcium is a myth, there are many other serious conditions as a result of bad mouth care that you need to keep in mind.
First, pregnant women are more prone to building up plaque, because of the hormonal changes that the body experiences during pregnancy. If plaque isn’t removed properly it can cause gingivitis - red, swollen, bleeding gums, and if not taken care of on time it can lead to a more serious gum disease - periodontitis. Evidence also suggests that most infants and young children that acquire caries-causing bacteria, get it from their mothers.
There is also a risk for developing inflammatory non-cancerous tumors that appear when swollen gums are irritated. Those tumors could shrink on their own if left alone, but sometimes they become very uncomfortable and make the processes of brushing, flossing or even just chewing really difficult. In this case, a dentist might have to remove the formation.
Unfortunately, there are also bigger risks than that. Growing evidence suggests a connection between premature, underweight births and gum disease. There is a bigger chance of a baby being born too early or with low weight if the future mom has developed a gum disease. There is more research to be done on this topic, but the existing data suggests as а possible reason the fact that gum disease triggers increased levels of biological fluids that induce labor. It appears that the worse the stage of gum disease is during pregnancy, the higher the risk of giving a premature birth is.
There are many possible complications for babies who are preterm or have low birth weight such as a higher risk of developing any of the following conditions:
- developmental complications
- ear infections
- birth abnormalities
- behavioural difficulties
All of that sounds scary, but the good news is, you can take action before and during pregnancy to minimize the risk of such problems appearing.
If your pregnancy is planned, there are certain actions you can take before you conceive to mitigate the risk of any oral health problems developing during or after your pregnancy.
- Make an appointment with your dentist before you get pregnant, so he or she can fix all existing problems in advance and minimize the risks for you and your baby. Among other things, the dentist will check for swollen or bleeding gums, untreated dental decay, cavities, mucosal lesions, any signs of infection or trauma. This is a very important time to be "better safe than sorry", so don't neglect your dental check-up.
- Create an oral health history. Your dentist can help you with this. You can gather the information with a simple conversation or a questionnaire, so you can track how pregnancy affects your oral health and take the necessary steps to address any possible complications.
Once the happy news is confirmed there will be many things you will need to take care of, so you can enjoy a happy and healthy pregnancy. In terms of maintaining good oral care, there are a few simple things that will ensure your teeth and gums are fine and your baby is growing safe.
- Make another appointment with your dentist and inform him/her about your pregnancy as soon as possible, especially if you haven’t done so before you got pregnant. Your dentist should make a plan on what is best for you and your baby and take care of all the possible problems in your mouth. Contrary to some myths, is perfectly safe (and strongly advised) to see your dentist while you are pregnant.
- Be extra careful with your oral hygiene. Brush your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day and replace your toothbrush more often than usual as you are more susceptible to the bacteria that builds up on standard toothbrushes. Of curse, if you are using an antibacterial toothbrush like Nano-b, you won't have this problem.
- If you experience morning sickness, rinse your mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water, to stop acid from attacking your teeth. Change your toothpaste to a more bland taste one. Ask your dentist for recommendations.
- Eat healthier and drink water regularly. Include various healthy foods in your diet - fruits, vegetables, whole-grain products, dairy products, fish, chicken, eggs, beans, and nuts. It's important that women get 400 milligrams of folic acid every day as well as eating high-folate foods. (leafy vegetables, beans, citrus fruits, whole grains, and folate-enriched cereals and bread.) Experts recommend upping your folic acid intake three months before trying to have a baby. Avoid foods that contain a lot of sugar like candy, cookies, cake and dried food and try to drink more water instead of flavored drinks, sodas. Always read the labels to see what the ingredients and sugar levels are.
- Other important healthy practices are stopping any tobacco use and recreational drugs. It's vital to avoid secondhand smoking as well. There should be no intake of alcoholic beverages.
After Giving Birth
Once the happy moment has arrived and your new family member is born it's again very important to not neglect your oral health. Pregnancy might have affected your mouth more than you think, so it's crucial to continue taking proper care of your mouth's health.
- Continue taking care of your mouth. All of the things mentioned above are true for the proper oral care of everyone. Good oral health is not only important during pregnancy, but is an extremely important part of your overall health and well-being.
- Take care of your baby’s gums and teeth. Feed your baby healthy foods (ideally 6 months of breastfeeding before starting other foods) and consult your dentist on when and how to take care of your toddler's teeth.
- Ask your baby’s doctor to check your baby’s mouth regularly. It's never too early to ask questions and seek advice from your pediatrician or dentist regarding your baby's teeth and gums. You should start taking care of your toddler's oral hygiene as soon as the first teeth appear.
- Make an appointment with your dentist, in case any problems developed during the pregnancy that went by unnoticed or for fixing anything that was postponed for after the delivery of the baby.
Creating a new life is the most exciting and precious experience of our lives. There are a lot of things to take care of and a lot to take in, but nothing is as important as the well-being of mom and baby. We live in the 21st century, a time when we know a whole lot more than we used to about how to take care of our health. It's important to use that information, especially when it comes down to something as important as adding another human to the world. Being a human itself is a great responsibility, but bringing a new life into this world is even a greater one. So make that call to your dentist and stay safe.
From the Nano-b team