Oral Health Considerations For Pregnant Women
With a calendar full of caregiver appointments, visiting the dentist may be the last thing on an expectant mother's mind. It is essential, however, that mothers-to-be recognize the role oral health plays in maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
A woman's hormone levels rise considerably during pregnancy, resulting in increased blood flow to the gums. This causes swollen, sensitive gums that are easily irritated by plaque build-up and prone to gingivitis -- a condition resulting from unremoved plaque. Expectant mothers can prevent gingivitis by keeping teeth clean and, if necessary, increasing dental visits.
The American Dental Association warns of studies indicating that women who have severe gum disease may be at risk for pre-term delivery, which increases the chances of having a low birth-weight baby.
In terms of professional care, regular dental visits should be continued throughout pregnancy to ensure best oral health. Expectant mothers should alert their dentist and hygienist of their condition during visits, and notify them of any medical changes that have occurred. Non-emergency treatment can be performed safely during pregnancy, but women should consult their dentist and or physician before undergoing elective treatment.
Pregnant women often have the desire to eat between meals and resort to snacking on high carbohydrate foods, a habit that may increase the risk of tooth decay. According to the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA), bacteria in the mouth convert sugar and starch into an acid that attacks tooth enamel and causes decay. Expectant mothers are encouraged to eat nutritious foods such as raw fruits and vegetables and dairy products when snacking between meals.
In addition to their own oral health, expectant mothers should be aware that their eating habits contribute to the oral development of their unborn baby. Because tooth development begins in the second trimester, women should consume foods rich in protein, calcium, and vitamins A, C and D.
PDA encourages expectant mothers to monitor their mouth for changes and follow good oral health practices such as:
- Brushing teeth after meals and snacks
- Flossing daily
- Using fluoride toothpaste
- Eating a well-balanced diet
Pregnant women should consult their dentist regularly to maintain good oral health.