Our dental health can have a significant impact on our overall health, and for pregnant women on the health of our baby. Practicing good dental care leading up to, during, and after pregnancy is important.

Good dental care can look like:

  • Flossing once a day.
  • Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Limiting sugary foods and drinks.
  • Avoiding tobacco products.
  • Limiting alcohol intake.
  • Regular dentist checkups (every 6 to 12 months).

If you are planning to become pregnant, try to get into these habits as early as possible if you aren’t already. If you feel comfortable, you can let your dentist know if you are trying to conceive, as they can perform a thorough checkup and advise if you have any dental procedures or treatments that should be performed before pregnancy.

If you are pregnant, make sure you tell your dentist so that they can take extra precautions, ensuring the safety of you and your baby.

How can pregnancy affect my dental health?

Pregnancy hormones can for some women impact the gums and teeth, in some cases leading to gum disease. Signs you may have developed gum disease include:

  • Swollen gums
  • Gums look more red than pink
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath

If you experience any of these symptoms, chat to your dentist, or to your GP for a referral.

Pregnancy hormones can also lead to an increase in vomiting. Vomiting can coat your teeth with stomach acids which can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay. While your instinct may be to brush your teeth as soon as you can after vomiting, it can be better to wait an hour or more. The scratching of a toothbrush against sensitive teeth coated in stomach acid can damage the enamel (surface of the tooth).

If you are experiencing morning sickness or vomiting at all through your pregnancy, you can rinse your mouth with water immediately after. A fluoride mouthwash can follow the plain water rinse. If you don’t have a fluoride mouthwash, you can use your clean finger to run a blob of fluoride toothpaste over your teeth and swish thoroughly with water. Then, after waiting at least an hour, you can gently brush with fluoride toothpaste.

Some pregnant women find that brushing their teeth can trigger a gag reflex. If you are struggling with this, remember that it is still important to brush all your teeth (even the back ones). Bacteria in your mouth can travel to your baby, so remember that you are brushing for two now. You can try to minimize the gag reflex reaction by:

  • Brushing slowly.
  • Using a small, soft toothbrush, perhaps a child’s toothbrush.
  • Distract yourself with music.

Diet and dental health

Your diet will likely change during pregnancy. You may experience intense cravings for unhealthy foods. You may wish to talk with your doctor or health professionals about how to manage these cravings.

It’s okay to give in to what your body is asking for at times, but if it is a sugary or acidic food, make sure to brush and floss. You might want to chat with your dentist about how long to wait between eating certain foods and brushing.

Increasing your calcium and vitamin D is a good way to increase bone and tooth strength. Talk to your health professional about supplements and food items that contain these vitamins.

Good habits for life

Good dental hygiene is a great habit for life, so once you’ve built a routine during your pregnancy, aim to maintain it. You can pass on this knowledge to your little one when the time comes!

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