Pregnancy and oral health, some important facts.
What does oral health have to do with pregnancy?
First off, did you know that women are more likely to develop gingivitis while going through pregnancy? While a woman goes through pregnancy, a lot of changes happen in their bodies. One of which (and I’m sure you might have guessed it) is hormonal changes. Different hormonal changes make the body react to bacteria in a more aggressive manner, as the body is trying to protect the child, this is where “pregnancy gingivitis” comes in. Because of the fact that the mouth is home to “tons” of bacteria, it is also an area that can easily become infected if not properly taken care of. During pregnancy you are much more likely to develop red, swollen, and bleeding gums, which are all signs of gingivitis. Sometimes even small lumps may appear along the gum line or between the teeth. These don’t necessarily pose a threat to your health. They aren’t cancerous, and usually go away after the pregnancy. These are referred to as “pregnancy tumors.” If they bother you, you can have them removed under localized anesthesia.
Noting the above, it is necessarily the case that those that are pregnant should continue to see their dentist for regular checkups and dental cleanings. Doing so will ensure your oral health is up to par, which will have notable effects on your overall health. The dentist will not only help to ensure your gums stay healthy, he’ll also be able to help prevent and remove dental carries (cavities) which may arise as well.
There has been some question in the past regarding getting x-rays taken when you are pregnant. This is understandable. In a lot of cases the dentist may refrain from taking x-rays until after your pregnancy. Sometimes, however, he needs to get a couple of x-rays done in order to understand or help diagnose a dental problem. If the dentist, and you, decide to take an x-ray, in order to minimize exposure to the x-rays, he will put a protective apron over your abdomen and around your neck to protect the thyroids. At our dental office in DC we also use digital x-rays, which can reduce the amount of exposure up to 50-80%. That’s a pretty significant amount.
Pregnancy and home care.
During pregnancy it is essential to keep, and maintain your oral hygiene habits. Doing so is important for your overall health and the health of your baby. If you have any questions on how to brush your teeth properly, to ensure your removing as much plaque and bacteria as possible, your dentist and hygienist can show you how. I’ll briefly go over proper brushing technique here:
- Be sure to brush at least twice a day. This is important for that fact that, bacteria and plaque continue to build up in the mouth throughout the day, and if your teeth are not cleaned regularly, this plaque can harden, and the removal of this hardened substance requires quite a bit more than a quick brush. After plaque hardens into dental tartar or calculus, you have to have a professional cleaning in order to remove it.
- When brushing, do so for a sufficient amount of time. The amount of time you should be brushing is 2 minutes during one brushing session. If you brush for longer than this you can actually be doing more harm than good. After the plaque is removed, and you keep brushing, and if your brushing hard, you can wear down the enamel on your teeth, as well as wear down your gums. It is often recommended that you use a soft tooth brush, as the harder the bristle, the more potential damage it can cause to your gums and teeth. If you’re brushing for less than 2 minutes, you could run into the problem of not getting all the plaque off of your teeth. If this happens, and the plaque is left too long, as mentioned above, the plaque will harden and you will not be able to brush it off.
- Brush using an “M” motion on the top of your mouth, and a “W” motion on the bottom. Doing this will help you to remember to brush along the gum lines too. This is necessary to get the plaque from around the gums and in doing so, help prevent gum disease.
- Don’t brush too hard. As mentioned above, if you brush too hard you could actually cause damage to your teeth and gums. The amount of force does not have to be that great to remove plaque from your teeth.
Doing the above, as well as flossing your teeth at least once a day (as this helps to remove the bacteria between the teeth) is essential. When using mouth wash, it is usually encourage by the dentist that it be non-alcoholic mouth wash. Doing the above oral hygiene steps will increase your oral health, your baby’s health and your overall health. It will also help in making your pregnancy go that much smoother.
The ADA has also written an article on pregnancy and oral health, which I’m linking here.
Stay healthy my (pregnant) friends.