The words “prenatal care” often conjure up an image of vitamins, minerals, and supplements that boost the baby’s health. While prenatal care includes many facets, See Me Smile Dental and Orthodontics will focus on one that is often overlooked: oral health. Oral health and physical health impact one another, and poor oral hygiene during pregnancy can put both mother and baby at risk. Here, we will examine this link more closely and how expectant mothers in Santa Barbara, CA can help give their baby’s immune system a boost!
Prenatal care begins with oral health since oral bacteria can find their way into the pregnant mother’s bloodstream. This bacteria can then be transferred to the baby while it is still developing in the womb. Poor oral health and oral bacteria have been linked to adverse health outcomes during pregnancy, including preterm birth and babies with low birth weight. Thus, good oral hygiene is an essential part of prenatal care.
In addition to the possibility of preterm birth or low birth weight, babies in contact with oral bacteria are more likely to have serious oral health issues early in life. The bacteria that cause tooth decay can create cavities in very young children. It is also important to remember that a mother’s oral health can affect the baby after birth.
Mothers with poor oral hygiene and cavity-causing bacteria can transfer it to their children through a kiss. It can also be transmitted through the mother putting something in her mouth (like a pacifier) before sticking it in the baby’s mouth. Another way to protect babies from developing cavities is not to let them fall asleep while feeding since the sugar from the bottle can cause what is known as “baby bottle tooth decay.”
While it is true that babies are susceptible during pregnancy, oral health issues during this time can also impact the mother. For example, mothers may be at risk of several dental problems while they are expecting:
Fluctuating hormones and sugar cravings can make pregnant women prone to cavities. Preventing cavities and keeping the bacteria that cause them under control is essential for you and your baby’s oral health, both during pregnancy and after birth.
Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease, and it is apparent through inflammation of the gums, redness, and tenderness. The gums may also easily bleed when brushing or flossing. Many women develop gingivitis during pregnancy due to hormone changes. Catching gingivitis early on is imperative to prevent it from developing into periodontitis.
Periodontitis is sometimes called periodontal disease. It differs from gingivitis in that it is the advanced stage of gum disease. If left untreated, gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, which can leave patients with bone and tooth loss.
Periodontitis can lead to loose teeth from receding bone. However, high levels of estrogen and progesterone may also cause teeth to loosen by weakening the bones and tissues that hold the teeth in position.
The acidity from vomiting due to morning sickness can start wearing down tooth enamel, which is the tooth's hard outer surface. Compromised enamel can make room for tooth decay to set in and contribute to the development of cavities.
Pyogenic granulomas are benign pregnancy tumors that appear on the gums. Although unsightly, they typically resolve after the mother gives birth but may bleed easily in the meantime.
Good oral hygiene and other oral health precautions can help prevent some of these dental issues from occurring. Taking optimal care of the oral cavity during pregnancy is beneficial for both mother and baby.
The good news is that pregnant mothers can take steps to boost their oral health. Below are several examples of how mothers-to-be can avoid unnecessary dental problems and discomfort:
A thorough oral hygiene regimen includes brushing the teeth for two minutes twice a day and flossing at least once. A soft-bristled toothbrush is recommended, and electric toothbrushes actively remove more plaque from the teeth than manual ones.
Annual dental exams and biannual cleanings help prevent plaque buildup on the teeth. While some mothers worry about receiving digital dental x-rays during this time, it is safe for expecting mothers to receive up to four digital x-rays per dental visit. Digital x-rays do not use as much radiation as traditional x-rays and See Me Smile Dental and Orthodontics will still provide you with a protective apron to keep you and your baby safe.
Although morning sickness cannot be helped and is thoroughly unpleasant, it is possible to help mitigate some of its effects on the teeth. Since acid from morning sickness erodes tooth enamel, it is essential to offset this effect. Expecting mothers can rinse the oral cavity with warm water with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed in. Doing this before brushing can help neutralize acidity levels, whereas brushing first can elevate them.
Just as you are brushing for two, you are also eating for two! Consuming nutrient-rich foods with plenty of vitamins and minerals contributes to good oral health and strong teeth and bones. In addition, calcium, Vitamin C, and B12 can improve gum health.
Although pregnancy is a time that oral health issues can develop, following these precautions can help prevent unnecessary dental discomfort. See Me Smile Dental and Orthodontics is also happy to make more personalized suggestions based on your needs!
See Me Smile Dental and Orthodontics welcomes patients of all ages to our Santa Barbara office. We particularly enjoy partnering with expectant mothers to optimize their oral health. Oral health plays a significant role in prenatal care, and good oral hygiene can help prevent bacteria from entering the mother’s bloodstream and affecting the baby. While fluctuating hormones and sugar cravings can present oral health issues, women can offset them by receiving regular dental exams and cleanings, maintaining their oral hygiene, watching their diet, and curtailing specific lifestyle habits.