Before getting pregnant, I always had gums that bled when I brushed my teeth. So when this happened during pregnancy, I didn’t think much of it. But since all my pregnancy books kept touching on oral health, I made a dentist appointment -- I wanted to do everything to keep my baby (and me!) healthy. It turns out that bleeding gum were, in fact, something to keep an eye on during pregnancy. And much much more.
According to Melissa Labbe, a registered dental hygienist at the Dr. Louis Spiegelman dental practice in New York, there are many things that pregnant women should keep in mind when it comes to their oral health.
- Gum Disease. Due to the hormone changes when pregnant, there is a risk of developing gum disease as well as pregnancy gingivitis. If you do have these conditions, you will notice red, swollen and tender gums that are more likely to bleed when you brush your teeth. So how can oral care issues like these be prevented?
- Drink plenty of fluids to make sure you stay hydrated.
- Eat healthy food, particularly if you're overweight.
- Daily exercise, such as walking or swimming, can help improve circulation.
- Brush twice a day with an electric toothbrush for at least 2 minutes each time.
- Floss once a day, everyday and use an antibacterial mouthwash that is alcohol free.
- Have at least 2 professional cleanings while you’re pregnant: Once in the beginning of your pregnancy or before you get pregnant and then one more in your 7th month.
- Tooth Erosion. For those who suffer from morning sickness (vomiting), tooth erosion can be a problem. It is important NOT to brush right away after vomiting, since the acid in your mouth will only help erode the teeth as you brush. Before brushing, rinse with a mixture of baking soda and water, or a commercial rinse designed to reduce the acid level (ph).
- Dry mouth. This is another issue that many pregnant women deal with. To prevent this, drink plenty of water and have sugarless mint-flavored hard candies or gum to stimulate saliva secretion and keep your mouth moist. Stay away from fruit-flavored sugarless candies because they contain acid, which will erode the teeth over time. These sugarless candies or gum should contain xylitol, which reduces the harmful bacteria that causes cavities.
- Aggrevating Existing Health Conditions. Always be sure to share your current health conditions with your dentist. Since I suffered from venous thrombosis (when your veins carry blood from all parts of your body back to your heart) during pregnancy, my hygienist decided not to go through with my cleaning for fear of me bleeding too much. With venous thrombosis, sometimes, a blood clot can happen in one of the veins. At the time I was annoyed that I had trekked to the dentist and couldn’t even get my cleaning, but the caution was for the best. If you have this issue, make sure you go to bring a note with you from your obstetrician before heading to the dentist.
- X-Rays. While many people think you can’t have dental x-rays while pregnant, that’s not actually true. Technological advancements have made dental x-rays much safer. A lead apron will protect you and your fetus from radiation. But, x-rays should only be taken during the first trimester only if they are needed for diagnosis or treatment that cannot wait until after the baby is born. After the first trimester, there is even less chance of any negative results from an x-ray.