Dentist Dr Abigail Moore shares her advice on keeping teeth healthy in pregnancy.
The health of your teeth is probably not the first thing you think about when you first discover you are pregnant. But as dentist Dr Abigail Moore explains, your teeth should actually be a high priority throughout this time. “Dental care is of upmost importance in pregnancy as just like in the rest of your body, changes are seen in the mouth also. If women are aware of what to expect and how to prevent issues they can avoid any unwanted complications. Prevention is always best!”
Dental changes in pregnancy
The main changes in pregnancy are seen in the gums. Pregnancy hormones (namely progesterone) cause gums to be more sensitive and reactive to plaque. “If the teeth are not brushed and flossed well, plaque will be left and the gums can react to this by becoming swollen and inflamed. This is called pregnancy gingivitis. The first signs of this would be that gums are bleeding easily on brushing and may look red and angry. If oral hygiene is good, this is completely avoidable,” explains Dr Moore.
There are no direct changes to the teeth during pregnancy according to Dr Moore, but damage can occur to the teeth due to altered and irregular eating habits or because of excessive vomiting. “It is important to avoid high-sugar foods, especially between meals. Pregnant women often need to eat more frequently, so it is very important to try and stick to tooth (and health) friendly snacks such as cheese and nuts. Try to stick to milk and water as drinks as the acid and sugars in juices or fizzy drinks are very damaging to the tooth enamel.”
Coping with nausea
Nausea can also increase the gag reflex in the mouth, making toothbrushing uncomfortable. Dr Moore advises that women should eat first and wait until they feel better before trying to brush. “A high fluoride mouthwash could be used after breakfast before the first brush. Using a small-headed toothbrush can reduce the gag stimulation and breathing through your mouth while brushing can help. Also, avoid the very strong minty tooth pastes as they can be too harsh for delicate taste buds.”
The acid from the vomit is very damaging to the tooth enamel and can cause acid erosion. For this reason, it is advisable to not brush straight away after vomiting as this removes the softened enamel. “Instead, eat sugar free chewing gum (to stimulate saliva), drink water or milk or use a high fluoride alcohol free mouthwash. These things will help neutralise the acid. It would be safe to brush about 30 minutes later of it helps freshen the mouth.”
Morning sickness and dental hygiene
- After an episode of reflux, rinse out vigorously with fluoridated tap water. Allow your mouth to rest for for 30-40 minutes before tooth brushing.
- Use a small-headed toothbrush; either manual or an automatic model, which can make it easier to get around individual teeth.
- Opt for a fluoride paste, with a milder flavour and smell applied in a thin film on the toothbrush in different areas of the mouth, spitting out in between, which helps to prevent making the nausea seem worse or stimulating excessive saliva.
- Choose a mild alcohol-free mouth rinse to help manage any acid problems, which may be associated with the nausea or gastric reflux.
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