Oral Health in Pregnancy: What Should You Know?

Oral health during pregnancy can be compromised due to the hormonal changes a woman goes through during this stage. What are the risks? How can they be avoided?
Oral Health in Pregnancy: What Should You Know?

Last update: 26 April, 2021

Oral health in pregnancy is a crucial aspect of that stage in life. When a woman is pregnant, she experiences multiple physiological changes that can affect her oral health.

According to the General Council of Dentists of Spain, children born to mothers with poor oral health and high levels of cariogenic bacteria in saliva are also at high risk for tooth decay.

Basic strategies for maintaining oral health in pregnancy

1. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums

As this publication of the journal Advances in Periodontology and Oral Implantology points out, periodontal pathology can lead to premature delivery and low birth weight. Therefore, there’s the possibility of bacterial transmission through the mother’s saliva to the child.

2. Prevent or treat nausea, vomiting, and gastric reflux.

Pregnant women who experience morning sickness or gastric reflux are at high risk for dental erosion.

3. Prevent periodontal disease

Many women may develop periodontal disease during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. However, be sure to treat it as soon as possible.

4. Stop smoking

Smoking during pregnancy compromises not only the health of the mother, but also that of the fetus. According to research published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry, there may be a link between prenatal maternal smoking and early childhood cavities.

A pregnant woman smoking.
Smoking cigarettes during pregnancy poses many risks to the mother and fetus. Among these, an increased risk of dental disease.

How can oral health be affected during pregnancy?

A publication in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research states that the hormonal changes that occur in pregnancy produce a number of modifications in the mother’s body, and the oral cavity is no exception. In general, pregnant women may experience the following:

Dental cavities

The mouth becomes a more acidic environment due to hyposalivation, gastric reflux, vomiting and increased consumption of sugary foods. Therefore, there’s increased risk of tooth decay in pregnant women.

Pregnancy gingivitis

The increased inflammatory response to bacterial plaque can result in swollen and bleeding gums. Remember that proper brushing and interdental hygiene reduces gingivitis.

Oral health and pregnancy: periodontal disease

Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, in which the supporting bone of the tooth is already affected. This can lead to tooth mobility and tooth loss.

Granuloma of pregnancy

It occurs in approximately 5% of pregnancies. It’s basically the result of an exaggerated inflammatory response to oral pathogenic microorganisms and normally disappears without treatment after pregnancy, as pointed out in this study published in the Cuban Journal of Stomatology.

Dental erosion, one of the changes that affects oral health during pregnancy

Morning sickness and gastric reflux, frequent during pregnancy, can cause tooth erosion. Rinsing with water with dissolved baking soda can help neutralize acids after vomiting.

Preventing oral health problems in pregnancy

The most important goal for pregnant women is to maintain a healthy oral environment by controlling bacterial biofilm, through brushing, interdental hygiene, fluoride and with professional prophylaxis including supra- and subgingival tartar removal.

Dental prophylaxis

Tartrectomy or professional cleaning is an essential preventive and therapeutic component of dental care, although only a minority of pregnant women visit their dentist during pregnancy. Surprisingly, the number is between 10 and 12%.

It’s paramount for pregnancy-related professionals to reassure women that dental care isn’t only safe, but also essential for their own health and for the normal development of the fetus.

“It’s essential that pregnant women visit their dentist to receive timely advice and treatment”.

A woman at the dentist.
Professional cleaning is a decisive preventive measure for dental problems during pregnancy. However, few women visit the dentist at this stage.

Self-care for good oral health during pregnancy

The following are some of the things that pregnant women can do to take care of their oral health during pregnancy.

Visit their dentist during pregnancy

At any time during pregnancy, although we suggest going during the second trimester for the convenience of the pregnant woman, they should visit the dentist. In short, the dentist will examine and inform the patient about the treatments to be performed and advise her.

Maintain proper hygiene

Brush at least twice a day, using a small soft brush to avoid gagging. Use fluoride toothpaste and don’t forget to floss at night.

Take care of your diet

Limit the consumption of sugary foods at meals and avoid them between meals, consume fruits and vegetables, eliminate the consumption of carbonated beverages or chew sugar-free gum with xylitol for 10 to 15 minutes after meals.

In case of frequent vomiting…

Take small amounts of fruits, vegetables, yogurt and cheese throughout the day. Use fluoride mouthwash daily. After vomiting, rinse with water and baking soda.

A woman brushing her teeth.
Brushing teeth properly, flossing and taking care of your diet are simple measures that pregnant women can consider to take care of their oral health.

Self-care after childbirth

For the mother

  • Upkeep oral hygiene to avoid cavities and gingivitis.
  • Limit sugary products at meals and don’t snack between meals.
  • Remember that your saliva contains bacteria, so don’t put your baby’s spoon, pacifier, or bottle in your mouth.

For the newborn

  • Wipe their gums with a wet gauze after feedings.
  • When teething begins, start using a pediatric toothbrush.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste; the amount should be the size of a grain of rice.
  • Don’t forget to make an appointment with the dentist when your baby is a year old.

In short, given the conditions of pregnancy, it’s essential to pay special attention to oral health. Pregnant women should, therefore, reinforce their oral hygiene habits and, if possible, visit the dentist.

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