When you are expecting a baby, everyone wants to give you advice. Eat this, don’t eat that, do this, don’t do that. But I’ll bet you anything, very few people give you advice about brushing and flossing. It’s too bad, because new mothers have unique oral health needs during and after pregnancy.
So, in honor of Mother’s Day, let’s give a shout out to all the new and expectant mothers. Taking care of your teeth now goes a long way toward the health of both you and your child. Here are a few practical tips to help you make the most of your oral health.
Changes to Your Oral Health During Pregnancy
I don’t think I’m alone on this one: When I was pregnant, even the cotton commercials made me cry. During pregnancy, your hormone levels are much higher than normal. These hormones don’t just make you more sensitive, they make your gums and mouth more sensitive too. Watch out for these dental issues:
Pregnancy gingivitis: Around three-quarters of expectant mothers develop pregnancy gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease. If left untreated, it leads to more serious gum disease and tooth decay.
Oral growths: About five percent of pregnant women develop small oral growths called pyogenic granulomas. These aren’t dangerous and usually go away after pregnancy. But if you notice a growth, check with a doctor or dentist to rule out anything more serious.
Morning Sickness and Your Oral Health
Morning sickness is more than just an annoyance. The stomach acids from your vomit wear away at your tooth enamel, making you more susceptible to cavities. After you experience morning sickness, rinse with a mixture of baking soda and water to reduce the acid levels in your mouth. Then it’s best to wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth with a soft bristle brush.
How Your Dental Health Affects Your Baby’s Dental Future
All of this extra vigilance isn’t just for your sake. Your dental habits affect your baby in some surprising ways. For example, poor oral health during pregnancy is linked to premature labor and low birth weights, because excessive bacteria from your mouth travels through your bloodstream to your uterus.
You can also pass on cavities to a newborn child, much like an infectious disease. Researchers have found parents and guardians can pass cavity-causing bacteria to children under two years of age through kisses on the mouth and sharing of food and utensils. So be careful – and keep your own oral health in shape.
Navigating Your Dental Health at Home and With the Dentist
A healthy mouth is a key part of staying healthy during pregnancy. Maintain good oral hygiene at home, and don’t forget to visit your dentist at least once while you are pregnant. He or she is a great resource for your unique oral health needs at this stage of your life.
And while you are at it, talk to your dentist about oral care and dental visits for your newborn baby. Caring for your child’s teeth starts during pregnancy and carries right through to the day she is born.