Looking after your teeth during pregnancy
Pregnant mothers can experience an increase in dental problems during their pregnancy. Good nutrition from the mother is needed for the baby’s teeth to develop properly. Calcium is necessary for strong bones and teeth.
Pregnancy hormones are similar to bacterial toxins, and the gums can be attacked by the body’s defence mechanisms, leading to the gums bleeding more easily. This means that pregnant mothers must keep a high standard of oral hygiene, and visit their dentist regularly.
During pregnancy and for the 12 months following the birth, dental treatment is free for all women.
Helping pregnant mothers have a healthy mouth
- Snacks and drinks. A healthy, balanced diet containing all the necessary vitamins and minerals is vital at all times, but especially when a woman is pregnant. Good nutrition from the mother is important for the baby’s teeth to develop. Calcium in particular is important to produce strong bones and healthy teeth. This can be found in milk, cheese and other dairy products. Women who suffer from morning sickness may feel like eating ‘little and often’. There is an increased risk of dental decay (caries) with this. If you are frequently sick, rinse your mouth afterwards with plain water to prevent the acid in your vomit attacking your teeth. Try to avoid sugary and acidic snacks and drinks between meals to protect your teeth against decay.
- X-rays and fillings. There should be no problem with routine treatment when pregnant. However the Department of Health has recommended that amalgam fillings be left until the baby is born. Similarly x-rays, unless necessary, should be delayed. However there are times when the need for an x-ray is justified, such as root treatment, where the risks of not taking it outweigh the risks of having one.
- Bleeding gums. You may experience bleeding of the gums when you are pregnant. It is important to keep up a high standard of oral hygiene to avoid gum problems. Brushing all the surfaces of your teeth thoroughly last thing at night and one other time with a fluoride toothpaste, of more than 1350 ppm fluoride, will help. (You can find the level of fluoride on the tube of toothpaste. Brushing last thing can help protect the teeth as fluoride in the toothpaste continues to work while you are asleep.) When brushing, make sure you brush the teeth right up to the gums. Do not wet the brush before cleaning your teeth because this dilutes the toothpaste. You should spit out and not rinse after brushing. Leaving the fluoride toothpaste in your mouth can help strengthen teeth.
- Morning sickness. If you experience morning sickness, rinse your mouth afterwards with plain water to prevent the acid in your vomit attacking your teeth.
- Smoking and alcohol. Smoking and drinking alcohol can lead to an underweight baby. It can also result in a baby having teeth where the enamel does not form properly. These teeth will be more likely to decay. Smoking and drinking alcohol can also increase the chance of the permanent teeth being deformed.
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