Many of us know all too well how pregnancy and
breastfeeding can affect our bodies. But what many of us don’t realise is that,
alongside morning sickness, swollen feet and backache, the changes pregnancy
and breastfeeding has on our bodies also includes our teeth and gums.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make
women more likely to suffer from gum disease and inflammation. In fact, the National Childbirth
Trust estimates that up to 40% of mothers get gum disease during
pregnancy. There are also studies that suggest links between periodontal gum
disease and premature births, underweight babies and developmental conditions
in newborns. So, it’s certainly important to keep your oral health in tip top
condition throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding stages, for you and your baby.
Caring for Your Teeth While Pregnant
The hormonal changes that occur when you’re
pregnant result in increased blood flow. This makes your gums more sensitive to
bacteria which leads to gum disease. Your gums may appear red, swollen and feel
more tender or easily irritated. You might experience bleeding when you brush.
A common occurrence during the second
trimester is known as ‘pregnancy gingivitis’. Women notice symptoms such as wobbly
teeth, dental erosion or decay and some even report finding gum lesions
(benign, don’t worry). In some cases, expectant mothers find small lumps on
their gums, referred to by dentists as ‘pregnancy granuloma’.
It’s important, therefore, to tell your
dentist as soon as possible after you discover you are expecting. They will be
able to offer expert advice on caring for your teeth and gums throughout your
pregnancy. Additionally, if you require any treatment or medications, your
dentist will know which are safe to prescribe. Book regular dental check ups so
that your dentist can keep an eye on your dental health, addressing any changes
as soon as they occur.
Here are some top tips for looking after your
teeth during your pregnancy…
Brush along the gum line – this
prevents bacteria from building up and causing gum disease. Use a soft headed
Use fluoride toothpaste – fluoride
strengthens teeth and prevents decay.
Avoid mouthwash that contains
Floss daily to rid your teeth of
For inflamed gums, do a daily salt
rinse – mix 1 tsp of salt with 1 cup of warm water and swish the mixture around
your mouth, before spitting into a basin. Salt is an anti-inflammatory,
preventing harmful bacteria from multiplying.
Drink plenty of water – not only
will you be hydrated, but water contains fluoride.
Chew sugar free gum – most sugar
free gum contains xylitol, which helps kill harmful bacteria and prevents tooth
Choose food that is rich in calcium and vitamin D – foods such as milk, cheese, eggs and fatty fish contain plenty of nutrients for healthy teeth
Struggling with Morning Sickness?
Morning sickness is common during pregnancy,
with women suffering in varying degrees. Many women also experience gastric reflux
(heartburn). During morning sickness or reflux, stomach acid coats the teeth.
This can lead to dental erosion, dissolving tooth enamel and an increased risk
of tooth decay.
Most of us will want to rush to brush our
teeth after an episode of morning sickness. However, this can actually make
things worse. Dentists recommend waiting for up to an hour before brushing your
teeth to let the enamel recover. Try rinsing your mouth with water, followed by
smearing toothpaste on your teeth to freshen your mouth and strengthen your
teeth. By combining 1 tsp of baking soda with 1 cup of water and rinsing your
mouth with the solution, you can neutralise the stomach acid and help protect
If your nausea is really bad and you find
yourself gagging when you brush, try using a small, soft headed toothbrush,
like children use on their baby teeth. Be sure to take your time, making sure
your teeth still get a thorough clean. Some women find closing their eyes and
focusing on taking deep breaths can help.
Protecting Your Teeth While
Once the baby is born, your teeth can still be
vulnerable to decay, particularly if you are breastfeeding. So, keeping on top
of your dental hygiene is still extra important. Try to maintain a healthy diet
of calcium and vitamin D to help strengthen your teeth and bones. The
recommended daily calcium intake for women aged between 19 and 50 is 1,000mg
When breastfeeding, as your body produces milk, you may experience a loss of bone density, which can also affect your teeth, making them weaker and more prone to decay. This is, however, only temporary. Once you stop breastfeeding, your bone density will return to normal.
When You’re Trying to Conceive
If you are thinking about trying for a baby,
it’s important to take into consideration the fact that any existing dental
problems can be exacerbated during pregnancy. These issues, if sufficiently
serious could even lead to tooth loss. Therefore, if you have poor oral health
and want to conceive, you should try to take care of any existing dental issues
before you get pregnant. Book an appointment with your dentist so they can
check the health of your teeth and discuss any treatment you may need.
There are certain dental treatments you should
avoid if you’re pregnant, so you may want to get these out of the way before
you conceive. Replacing amalgam fillings and dental x-rays shouldn’t be
undertaken while pregnant. And because of the chemicals involved in teeth
whitening, you should steer clear of this, too. In fact, you might
want to make sure any procedures are scheduled in before getting pregnant. If
you suffer from severe morning sickness, these can be incredibly uncomfortable,
as can lying on your back during long treatments.
Keeping your teeth and gums in good condition
is always important. But it’s especially important if you’re pregnant,
breastfeeding or trying to conceive. Your dental hygiene doesn’t just impact
your health, it can also affect your baby. Booking in regular check ups with
your dentist is the best way to keep on top of your oral health. Why not book
an appointment today?