How does pregnancy affect my oral health?
One may expect certain changes in oral health during pregnancy. Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can make some women susceptible to gum problems. The elevated levels of these hormones are responsible for the exaggerated response of gum tissues to plaque. Pregnancy may also increase the risk of tooth decay.
Can my dental health affect my baby?
Yes, it can. Researchers have found a link between pre-term labour, low birth weight babies and gingivitis. Estimates suggest that 18 out of 100 premature births are triggered by periodontal diseases. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the gums, travel to the uterus and trigger the production of a chemical called prostaglandin, which is suspected to induce premature labour. Appropriate dental treatment for the expectant mother can reduce the risk of a premature birth.
What is the best way to avoid dental problems during pregnancy?
You are less likely to have dental problems if you adopt good oral hygiene habits. These include:
- Brushing twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste
- Flossing regularly
- Rinsing your mouth with a fluoridated or anti-plaque mouthwash after meals
- Frequent cleanings from the dentist
- Avoiding sugary snacks and opting for low sugar foods instead
When should I visit my dentist?
If you suspect that you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, you should see your dentist immediately. It is more convenient to have elective procedures (procedures that are scheduled in advance because they do not involve medical emergencies) done before you conceive. You can also schedule an appointment for a cleaning with the dentist in your first trimester. Depending on your oral hygiene the dentist can help you map out a dental plan for the rest of your pregnancy.
What dental procedures are safe during pregnancy?
Some women may require procedures such as root canals, fillings, and crowns during pregnancy. The second trimester is the best time to get this type of work done. Any non-emergent dental work and elective procedures such as teeth whitening or cosmetic procedures should be postponed until after the birth of the baby. If your dental condition requires the use of local anesthetic agents or antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin or clindamycin, it is best to consult your obstetrician for advice regarding the safety of these drugs. Antibiotics such as tetracyclines should be avoided as they cause discolouration of the baby's temporary and permanent teeth.