Expecting a baby is an exciting time, and mums-to-be want to try to give their unborn child the best possible start. At the same time they may be battling morning sickness – at any time of day – or reflux, food cravings and other discomforts, so it’s not always easy.
Most expectant mothers know about cutting out alcohol and cigarettes, eating healthily and taking sensible exercise, but maintaining good dental health is an important aspect of pregnancy, and one which will have an important impact on the baby. Having a healthy mouth and a good diet can have an impact on good birth outcomes, as well as providing the baby with the right vitamins and minerals. Here’s Bino’s Guide to keeping your teeth and gums in good condition when you’re expecting, and to giving your new baby’s mouth a good start when he or she arrives.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body is in a heightened state, trying to protect the baby. Hormonal changes mean that the immune system reacts very strongly to what it perceives as threats, which include bacteria in the mouth. As a result, some women experience sore or swollen gums during pregnancy (gingivitis), as well as some bleeding from the gums, even if they haven’t had problems with their gums previously. The message here is that there’s no ‘wiggle room’ for oral hygiene – you really need to keep your mouth as clean as possible.
- Clean twice daily with a protective toothpaste, such as BioMin™ F, ideally using an electric toothbrush, making sure to clean the back teeth and any awkward to reach areas
- Clean interdentally with floss and/or interdental brushes
- If you have nausea and really can’t face brushing, put some toothpaste on your finger and rub and chew it around
- Keep up your regular appointments at the dentist and hygienist
- If the dentist believes that a mother has a high risk of caries, based on previous dental treatment, fillings, etc, she may be referred for additional oral hygiene treatment and advice
- A healthy diet in pregnancy is important, but realistically has to take account of morning sickness and cravings. Try to eat a healthy balanced diet to keep yourself well and give the baby the nutrients it needs, and keep sweet treats and fizzy or acidic drinks to a minimum
- Some women find the nausea so bad that they can’t eat full meals, and can only snack on small items (ginger biscuits often work) little and often. If so, try to limit the sweet snacks as far as possible. Your mouth needs 2-3 hours to return to a normal pH after eating something sweet or acidic, so if you eat too frequently it doesn’t have time to recover (see graph below)
- If you vomit, rinse your mouth out with water to wash out the acid and, if possible, clean your teeth with BioMin F to help remineralise any damaged tooth enamel
- Minty xylitol based chewing gum may be helpful to counteract nausea and promote saliva to neutralise acids in the mouth.
Most of all, try to enjoy your pregnancy as much as possible, being sensible and careful of your body, including your mouth.
Schematic representation of the changes in plaque pH in an individual who (A) has frequent food and drink intake during the day, or (B) limits their food and drink intake to main meals only. The critical pH is 5.5, below which teeth begin to demineralise.
Dr Stefano Daniele, Dentist, and Faye Donald, Dental Hygienist.