The Specialist

Dental health during pregnancy

Taking care of your oral health during pregnancy is more important than you think.

In this column, we will discuss the critical importance of maintaining good oral habits during all phases of pregnancy.

I am often asked the question: is it safe to visit the dentist while pregnant?

Yes, you should. Early in your dental visit, you should let your dentist know you are expecting and how far along you are in the pregnancy. Getting regular dental check-ups during pregnancy is safe and important for both you and your baby, while reducing the risk of infection.

Routine cleanings and fillings are acceptable and safe procedures during pregnancy. Also, it allows your dentist to proactively manage any pregnancy-related dental problems.

Within the first trimester, many dentists tend to avoid taking x-rays and prescribing certain medications unless absolutely necessary. Despite assurances of safety in our dental literature, with pregnant patients, most dentists confine their treatment to conservative therapy and emergency pain management.

Here are several common pregnancy-related signs suggesting a cause for concern:

• Persistent bad breath

• Loose teeth

• Mouth sores

• Sore or swollen gums

• Toothache(s)

Due to hyperactive hormone output, pregnancy takes a toll on the body. Here are some of the most common dental problems that you may experience: 

Pregnancy gingivitis and bleeding gums: Gum disease is more common in pregnant women due to hormonal changes. About half of all pregnant women suffer from pregnancy gingivitis. It is most common between the second and eighth months of pregnancy and usually goes away after childbirth. In its early stages, its known as gingivitis and it can develop into a more serious condition that has been associated with heart attacks, strokes and premature and/or birth weight babies.

Loose Teeth: High levels of progesterone and estrogen during pregnancy usually affect the roots and bones that keep your teeth in place. This can make your teeth loose or sensitive, even in the absence of gum disease. Make sure to tell your dentist if you’re suffering from this common symptom.

Decaying Teeth: Cavities during pregnancy can be a serious matter. As an expectant mother, your increased hormones can affect your body’s response to bacterial plaque that can cause cavities and gum disease. 

Many pregnant patients experience morning sickness. The stomach acid can coat the teeth when you vomit, which can cause dental erosion and increase the risk of tooth decay. Proper management is to NOT brush immediately after vomiting. Wait for at least 30 minutes before you brush to allow the enamel to recover. Instead, rinse your mouth with water or an alcohol-free mouth rinse immediately after you vomit to wash away the acid off the teeth.

Losing a tooth with each pregnancy: This is an “old wives tale” that has unfortunately lasted generations. It is just not factual. Losing a tooth is not a normal part of pregnancy. However, if you do, you most likely already had an existing dental problem. The hormones progesterone and estrogen can loosen the ligaments and bones that keep your teeth in place, even if you don’t have gum disease. Many times, this goes away after pregnancy. Talk with your dentist if you feel like your teeth are moving when they shouldn’t.

What you eat affects your baby: Your baby’s teeth begin to develop between the third and sixth months of pregnancy, and eating well can help them form correctly. Eat plenty of nutrients – including vitamins A, C, and D, protein, calcium and phosphorous. 

Important tips for maintaining a healthy mouth during pregnancy:

– Brush and floss with an ADA accepted fluoride toothpaste twice a day.

– Eat a well-balanced diet with fruits and fresh vegetables.

– Visit your dentist regularly during your pregnancy for professional cleanings and check-ups.

– If you have morning sickness and are vomiting frequently, rinse with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with water to stop stomach acid from attacking your teeth.

Good dental hygiene during pregnancy is essential and ultimately the birth of a healthy baby is a wonderful gift to behold. Be good stewards. Eat healthy and take care of your dental health. It’s an important gift you can give the next generation.

Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is Founder and CEO of Center for Specialized Dentistry which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in Nassau and Freeport. He is the first Bahamian Specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He also is a certified Fastbraces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, Nassau at (242)325-5165 or kmajorcsd@gmail.com.

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