Dental Care for Expecting Moms
We see a lot of expecting or new mothers in my practice. Most often the number 1 goal for them is the health and wellness of the baby. One of the most crucial components of expecting moms’ health that needs special attention is actually their dental health.
If you are expecting a new family member (or know anyone who is) it’s very important to educate yourself on the importance of taking proper care of your oral heath before, after and especially during pregnancy. In my country, there is a saying that you have a baby and you loose a tooth or more. Although losing a tooth during pregnancy due to lack of calcium is a myth. There are many other serious conditions as a result of bad mouth care that expectant mothers should be aware.
What are these conditions?
First, pregnant women are more prone to building up plaque, because of the hormonal changes that the body experiences during pregnancy. If plaque isn’t removed properly it can cause gingivitis – red, swollen, bleeding gums, and if not taken care of on time it can lead to a more serious gum disease – periodontitis. Evidence also suggests that most infants and young children that acquire caries-causing bacteria get it from their mothers. Also more plaque formation leads to more tooth decay.
There is also a risk for developing inflammatory non-cancerous tumors that appear when swollen gums are irritated. Those tumors could shrink on their own if left alone, but sometimes they become very uncomfortable and make the processes of brushing, flossing or even just chewing really difficult. In this case, a dentist might have to remove the formation.
Unfortunately, there are also bigger risks than that. Growing evidence suggests a connection between premature, underweight births and gum disease. There is a bigger chance of a baby being born too early or with low weight if the future mom has developed a gum disease. There is more research to be done on this topic, but the existing data suggests as а possible reason the fact that gum disease triggers increased levels of biological fluids that induce labor. It appears that the worse the stage of gum disease is during pregnancy, the higher the risk of giving a premature birth is.
There are many possible complications for babies who are preterm or have low birth weight such as a higher risk of developing any of the following conditions:
- developmental complications
- ear infections
- birth abnormalities
- behavioral difficulties
However, we can completely prevent such complications through low carbohydrate diet and great oral hygiene practice. This is why I am a proponent of palelithic diet for expecting mothers. Eating organic fruits and vegetables, organic grass fed meats, cold water low mercury fish will not only help your unborn grow healthy, but you could also reduce the risk of decay.
Dental Care Prior to Getting Pregnant
- Make an appointment with your dentist before you get pregnant. One should try to fix all existing problems in advance and minimize the risks for you and your baby. Your dentist will check for swollen or bleeding gums, untreated dental decay, cavities, mucosal lesions, any signs of infection or trauma. This is a very important time to be “better safe than sorry”, so don’t neglect your dental check-up. Also you could minimize introduction to medications to your body while pregnant
- Try adapting Paleolithic Diet. Just trying a few meals a week to a few days a week alone will help you not only get you healthy but you will have less chance of developing cavities due to lower consumption of processed carbohydrates and sugar.
Dental Care During Pregnancy
Once the happy news is confirmed there will be many things you will need to take care of; so you can enjoy a happy and healthy pregnancy. In terms of maintaining good dental care, there are a few simple things that will ensure your teeth and gums are fine and your baby is growing safe.
- Make another appointment with your dentist and inform him/her about your pregnancy as soon as possible. Especially if you haven’t done that so before you got pregnant. Your dentist should make a plan on what is best for you and your baby and take care of all the possible problems in your mouth. Contrary to some myths, is perfectly safe (and strongly advised) to see your dentist while you are pregnant.
- Be extra careful with your oral hygiene. Brush your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day. Replace your toothbrush more often than usual as you are more susceptible to the bacteria that builds up on standard toothbrushes. Also flossing is more essential and floss at least once a day.
- If you experience morning sickness; rinse your mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water, to stop acid from attacking your teeth. Change your toothpaste to a more bland taste one. Debate about the fluoride in toothpaste is still ongoing. I personally believe that fluoride can be toxic and good oral hygiene and diet should come first before resorting to fluoride toothpaste.
- Eat healthier under Paleolithic diet and drink water regularly. Try to minimize sugar and grains and follow Paleolithic diet as much as possible. Not only one would less likely have tooth decay and gum disease, but an expecting mother would have easier time with blood glucose management; lowering inflammation and optimizing nutrient intake. Also take vitamins and other supplements as recommended such as Vitamin D, Omega-3 (DHA) and Methyl Folate.
- Other important healthy practices are stopping any tobacco use and recreational drugs. It’s vital to avoid secondhand smoking as well to boost your dental health. There should be no intake of alcoholic beverages.
Dental Care After ChildBirth
Once the happy moment has arrived and your new family member is born; it’s again very important to not neglect your oral health. Pregnancy might have affected your mouth more than you think, so it’s crucial to continue taking proper care of your mouth’s health. I often see so many new mothers with new dental disease due to combination of other problems.
- Continue taking care of your mouth.All of the things mentioned above are true for the proper oral care of everyone. Good oral health is not only important during pregnancy, but is an extremely important part of your overall health and well-being.
- Take care of your baby’s gums and teeth.Feed your baby healthy foods (ideally 6 months of breastfeeding before starting other foods) and consult your dentist on when and how to take care of your toddler’s teeth. I believe implementing paleo diet for kids are also beneficial. My children eat predominantly paleo diet and represents with no decay. You should take your little one(s) to dentist regularly to ensure healthy teeth.
- Make an appointment with your dentist. This is important in case of any dental care problems. Especially when it was developed during the pregnancy that went by unnoticed; or for fixing anything that was postponed for after the delivery of the baby. After all, you are worth it and your teeth and health are important; not only for yourself but also for your family.