Caring For Your Pearly Whites: Tips for Dental Hygiene During Pregnancy

Caring For Your Pearly Whites: Tips for Dental Hygiene During Pregnancy

Dental hygiene is important at all stages of your life, but during pregnancy, it is even more important to keep your teeth and gums in tip-top condition.

 

That’s because pregnancy hormones can affect your gums making them more prone to bleeding. Your gums can become inflamed and more susceptible to infection which then, leads to decay. You’re also more likely to get a build-up of plaque, a soft and sticky film which contains millions of bacteria, on your teeth.

 

Regular and thorough teeth cleaning should already be part of your daily routine. If you are not sure you are doing it properly, speak with your dentist or dental hygienist about the best ways to clean your teeth and the best brushes and toothpastes to use.

 

A serious gum infection (gingivitis or periodontal disease) wouldn’t directly affect your baby’s health, but it may indicate that your general health is not as good as it could be. If you’re finding it difficult to stay healthy, this can affect the way your baby grows. This is the reason a correlation is often made between gum disease and premature birth, low-birth-weight babies and other pregnancy complications.

 

dental checkup

 

When you visit your dentist, make sure they know you are pregnant so the most suitable treatment is selected for any problems that will not affect your baby.

 

For example, you won’t be given an X-ray, unless you urgently need one, but there’s no problem if you need a local anaesthetic for dental work.

 

Although there is no evidence that mercury amalgam fillings are a health risk, these are not recommended during pregnancy and your dentist can use the alternative, white fillings if you need them. Further treatment from your dentist will most likely include scaling and root planing, which removes tartar build-up and soothes the base of your teeth where they join the gums.

 

Untreated gingivitis can lead to a more serious disease called periodontitis which weakens the tissue and bone that keep your teeth fixed in your jaw. Untreated periodontitis can result in a lost tooth or teeth or you could develop painful pus-filled sacs, called abscesses.

 

Although regular check-ups by dentists are important, we can help ourselves by looking after our teeth a little bit more, and not just when pregnant, to avoid unnecessary plaque, decay and cavities. There’s more to looking after your teeth than simply brushing twice a day.

 

Pregnant woman drinking water near window. Pregnancy concept

 

1. Drink plenty of water. There are several dental benefits to drinking water: it helps wash out debris and acid from your mouth, the contains of fluoride tap water help build stronger enamel, and water also helps prevent you from suffering from a dry mouth, which makes you more susceptible to dental problems.

 

2. Stop snacking. You produce more saliva when eating larger meals, which washes food particles away and lessens acid damage.

 

3. Floss. If you only brush your teeth you could be missing up to 35 percent of each tooth, which is a lot of tooth for bits of food to hide in and bacteria to live.

 

4. Eat cheese. Cheese and other dairy products, such as milk and yoghurt, are a great source of calcium, which your teeth use to help prevent demineralisation, the breakdown of enamel. Cheese also produces an alkaline environment when broken down so helps fight the acid that causes tooth decay.

 

Close up on a beautiful girl while enjoying gum

 

5. Keep chewing. Studies show that chewing sugar-free gum can have a positive effect on teeth. Gum can stimulate production of saliva and increase salivary flow. Saliva is a natural buffering agent that washes the teeth and neutralises some of the acid produced by bacteria.

 

6. You’ve hopefully already kicked the smoking habit, but another incentive not to go back to the cigarettes after baby is born is the fact that not only does smoking cigarettes stain your teeth, but it can cause more serious damage by restricting the flow of blood to your teeth and gums, depriving them of vital nutrients they need for growth and repair. Smokers are more likely to suffer from periodontal disease than non-smokers.

 

7. Cut down on sugar. The bacteria that cause tooth decay feed off sugar and other simple carbohydrates to produce acid which erodes enamel and leads to dental problems.

 

8. Use a good mouthwash. There are several that are recommended by dentists which, when used in conjunction with regular brushing, can help reduce plaque and the build-up of bacteria, as well as helping to remove food from those hard to reach places.

 

9. Don’t forget your tongue. It’s not just on your teeth that bacteria and plaque can build up and it’s important to clean your tongue with a special tooth brush or scraper to prevent your tongue acting as a breeding ground for bacteria.

 

stain free teeth

 

10. Stay stain free. It’s well known that drinking too much coffee and red wine can result in stained teeth, but research has also revealed that caffeine interferes with the production of saliva, because of its diuretic effect, so there is less available to help wash and clean the teeth.

 

 

You can prevent damage by following these tips for keeping your teeth and gums clean during pregnancy:

  • Your instinct may be to avoid doing anything that makes your gums bleed, but it’s important to brush your teeth often. Use a soft brush if your gums are tender.
  • Plaque (the film of saliva, bacteria and food that coats your teeth in between cleaning) can make your gums more prone to bleeding. To remove it, brush your teeth for two minutes, once in the morning and again as the last thing at night, using fluoride toothpaste.
  • Consider investing in an electric toothbrush. Electric brushes are better at removing plaque and lodged food particles than manual brushes.
  • Clean between your teeth at least three times a week to remove plaque and trapped food. You can use floss or mini (interdental) brushes.
  • See your dentist regularly.
  • Ask your doctor or dentist about mouthwashes that are safe to use while you’re pregnant. Mouthwashes with the antiseptic chlorhexidine are fine but can stain your teeth and tongue. You may need your dentist or a dental hygienist to remove the stains.

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