Taking Care of Your Teeth When Pregnant & Breastfeeding

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Category: Health and Medicine

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. Most treatments will still be safe for you. There’s no need to put corrective care off either, as treatments like Invisalign can keep you ready for all the pictures that happen during your pregnancy! 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 toothbrush.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste – fluoride strengthens teeth and prevents decay.
  • Avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol.
  • Floss daily to rid your teeth of bacteria.
  • 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 decay.
  • 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 your teeth.

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 Breastfeeding

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 per day.

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?