Prenatal care involves many aspects at different stages of pregnancy. Among the new age options that promote well-being amongst expectant women – including prenatal nutrition, exercise and vitamins – oral hygiene is one of the most overlooked aspects, even though it deserves just as much attention.
Oral health is important not only for the expectant mothers but for the baby as well. Studies have found links between premature births with low birth weight and gum disease. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease in some women. Pregnant women are found to be more likely to develop gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums that affects up to 70% of pregnant women.
If you already have gum disease prior to pregnancy, the increased level of progesterone in pregnancy may cause the gingivitis-causing bacteria to grow even more. When your defences are down, your chances for infection in the gum tissue increase, as would the susceptibility to plaque buildup in your mouth.
Oral hygiene is not just linked to pregnancy but also a woman’s fertility, suggesting that a woman’s chance of getting pregnant may be boosted by observance of good oral hygiene. Poor oral hygiene can lead to gum and periodontal disease which can affect the body’s health and immune system. When the body’s system is under attack, it can impair the environment for conception necessary for a successful pregnancy.
While the link between oral hygiene and your chances of conceiving may seem remote and unlikely, the implications are more profound than previously thought. In the enlightened circumstance, your oral health should not be taken lightly if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.
What you can do?
It is important to maintain the health of your teeth throughout the pregnancy by practicing proper hygiene at home while visiting the dentist for professional help. You are advised to brush your teeth at least two times a day, preferably using fluoridated toothpaste. If your toothpaste induces morning sickness, opt for a flavourless brand. Daily flossing also helps to reduce the likelihood of food debris being trapped in between teeth that might give rise to bacteria and plaque build-up. Your at-home oral care regime must be supplemented by regular visits to your dentist or dental hygienist.
To prevent pregnancy gingivitis, you can start rinsing daily with an antimicrobial mouthwash. Avoid sugary sweets and starchy foods during pregnancy. Instead, your diet should include foods rich in nutrients that will aid the development of the baby.
If there are any elective dental work that needs to be done, they should be carried out prior to conception. While you can continue to go for your regular checks and cleans, hold off any cosmetic dental work until after the baby is born. Abstain from x-rays during pregnancy, but if not possible, opt for the low-dose radiation type. Finally, don’t forget to tell your dentist that you are pregnant, as that would influence the way they formulate your treatment plan and give advice on your prenatal oral care needs.