The Oral Health Foundation on oral health and pregnancy: Six things every expectant mum needs to know
During pregnancy you may face many new and often uncomfortable health issues as the months tick by. From swollen feet and an aversion to previously loved foods, many of the things you face are often explained away as being "just because you’re pregnant". But when it comes to oral health the problems you may experience while pregnant should not be overlooked, because they could lead to further issues for you or your baby at a later date.
To keep your body and mouth healthy during pregnancy here are the Oral Health Foundation’s six things you need to know about your oral health:
1. Bleeding gums & gum disease
Changing hormonal levels during pregnancy mean that your body will react differently to bacteria on your teeth (plaque). This can lead to swollen and bleeding gums and even to more serious forms of gum disease such as periodontitis and pregnancy gingivitis. There have been proven links between gum disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes; with a greater risk of pre-eclampsia, premature birth, and giving birth to an underweight child. It is therefore vital that pregnant women do not ignore any early signs of gum disease and get checked out by a dental professional straight away.
2. Treating gum disease
If you do have signs of gum disease, either periodontitis or gingivitis, you should know that it can be treated perfectly safely during pregnancy. This treatment involves a dental health professional performing a deep clean under the gums to remove any bacteria, the only risks associated with this is slight soreness of the gums which you would face even if you were not pregnant.
As with anybody’s oral health, prevention is always much better than cure when it comes to looking after your mouth, this is certainly the case when you are pregnant. A good oral health routine should involve brushing last thing at night and at least one other time during the day with fluoride toothpaste, daily interdental cleaning and regular visits to the dentist. These are free under the NHS if you are pregnant.
One of the easiest changes you can make to look after your oral health, and overall health, is your diet. Cutting down on how often and how much sugar you consume can dramatically reduce your risk of tooth decay and is also beneficial to many other areas of your health. Switching to fresh fruit and vegetables is a great way to look after your oral health and also look after you and your baby.
5. X-rays and anaesthesia
Always tell your dentist if you are pregnant, especially if there is a chance that you will need an x-ray. Your dentist will usually wait until after you've had the baby. X-rays during pregnancy do not carry risks to your unborn baby, such as miscarriage or birth defects, but repeated exposure to radiation can potentially damage the body's cells in the long run, increasing risk of developing cancer. X-rays are very low doses of radiation and carry a minimal risk of exposing the unborn baby to radiation.
6. Painkillers and antibiotics
It is generally safe for you to use common painkillers such as paracetamol and antibiotics when you are pregnant. However, you should always speak to your doctor before taking any new medication while pregnant to make sure it is safe to use.
It’s vitally important to stay on top of your oral health when you are pregnant to avoid any potential problems, if you need any further information you should contact the Oral Health Foundation’s Dental Helpline, who offer expert, free impartial advice to anybody who needs it.
Photos by Kewei Hu (top) and Mel Elías on Unsplash