Pregnancy is a big time for many expectant mothers and a lot of changes happen to the body which can be both exciting and overwhelming. The same is the case with the mouth, teeth and gums during pregnancy, and there are things that you can do to make sure that your mouth is in the best health to welcome your new addition, as well as setting up their mouth for a lifetime of good health.
Pregnant patients may often note swollen gums, which bleed, despite having the best oral hygiene habits. Most of this has to do with a perfect storm of blood vessel forming hormones, a changed immunity profile leading to opportunistic bacteria making the most of their time and various hormones such as progesterone which become food for some strains of bacteria in the mouth. Added to that food cravings and frequent snacking provide a constant food source for the bacteria to multiply and cause chaos with patient gums.
The teeth can also very much be affected as a lot of pregnant women may suffer from, vomiting or some sort of reflux, especially in the first trimester. This leads to residual acidity in the oral environment, pulling mineral out of the teeth and in turn eroding and creating an ideal environment for tooth decay-inducing bacteria to thrive.
Preventative care during pregnancy
Research shows that babies are not born with bacteria in their mouth. Most of the time, inherit it from their primary carer, in most cases this is their mother. (1) We encourage expectant mothers take extra care in remembering to develop and maintain good oral hygiene habits. As creating a healthy oral environment not only is good for reducing infection in the body, but also having “good” bacteria in the mouth may encourage the transfer of “good” bacteria to be the first colonisers of the baby’s oral environment so that “bad”, decay inducing bacteria may be less able to establish a niche.
When to see the dentist for a clean
The best time to get a clean done at the dentist is likely to be after 12 weeks when you are in your second trimester.
We recommend this as it may be a little more difficult for mothers of newborns to find time to get to the dentist. The first trimester is a crucial time also for spinal and nerve development, so we try to limit the work we do during that time. The third trimester may start to get uncomfortable for expectant mothers to lie for long periods in the dental chair.
All other non-urgent dental work we recommend leaving until after the baby is born. It maybe important to let your dentist know if you are breastfeeding, depending on the treatment and local anaesthetic requirements.
Tips we would give expectant mothers during pregnancy
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Using floss nightly to get between the teeth, where the toothbrushes do not.
- Rinsing (but not swallowing) with a small amount of bicarb soda in water from time to time to combat residual acidity left over from vomiting or reflux.
- Visit the dentist in your second trimester for a checkup and clean
In the meantime, congratulations!
See you at your next checkup.
- Li Y, Caufield PW (1995) The fidelity of initial acquisition of mutans streptococci by infants from their mothers. J Dent Res 74(2): 681-685.
About Our Author:
Dr Will Wang:
Dr Will Wang has been a dentist at Highgate Hill Dental Centre since 2008. He aims to make seeing the dentist a positive, happy experience for the whole family, and enjoys making it a fun visit for children. Will has a particular interest in preventative and restorative dentistry; and spends a lot of time explaining concepts to empower patients with the ability to maintain their own dental health between visits.