Why Is Oral Hygiene Important During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a very special time for you and your family. It is also a time of vast changes in your body and while some changes like the size of your belly and the fast-shifting moods are more obvious, there are also a variety of subtle changes in unexpected parts of your body like your mouth. The markedly high hormonal levels bring about a variety of changes including the increase of vulnerability of your mouth to oral problems.

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While an old wives' tale is known to warn a woman of losing a tooth for every child she bears, this is highly untrue as the inadequacy of calcium during pregnancy is replenished by your bones and not your teeth. This loss of Calcium from your bones is quickly restored shortly after you stop breastfeeding. However, the hormonal demands of an expecting mother often lead to particular oral problems by affecting your body's response to bacteria and plaque.

With expecting mothers with gum problems being more prone to preterm birth, low birth weight and other health issues for the developing baby, maintaining good oral health during pregnancy becomes of paramount importance.

Here are a few problems related to oral health that pregnancy brings about. 

Pregnancy Gingivitis
Pregnancy gingivitis, one of the most common dental problems associated with pregnancy, mostly happens during the first trimester due to the increased hormones. Symptoms usually include swollen, tender and red bleeding gums. When attended to, the issue resolves shortly after the delivery of the child. However, if neglected, it runs the risk of developing into a serious and irreversible form of gum disease called periodontitis, which increases the chances of the mother going into preterm labour by seven times.

Pregnancy Tumours 
This gum inflammation, in response to a local irritation, which forms a large lump with red hot points on it, usually near the upper gums. These raspberry-like lumps, which usually occur during the second trimester due to the hormonal changes, are not malignant or contagious but bleed and crust over, making talking or chewing painful. They usually resolve on their own soon after giving birth but in some extreme cases, they might need to be removed by the dentist under local anaesthesia.

The additional build-up of plaque 
As another consequence of the hormonal changes, pregnancy considerably increases your vulnerability to the building up of plaque. While pregnancy itself does not trigger plaque, it significantly compromises your body's capacity to fend plaque off, hence rendering your usual oral regimen insufficient. The building of plaque over a considerable period of time can directly lead to gingivitis or other serious dental issues.

Erosion of tooth enamel
With morning sickness, continuous cravings for sugary foods and excessive build-up of plaque during pregnancy, the tooth enamel becomes prone to erosion. The morning sickness increases your frequency of vomiting which leads to the exposure of your teeth to the strong stomach acids and which in turn causes erosion.

Once you know you're pregnant, it's extremely important to inform your dentist if the same along with the details of any prenatal drugs you might be taking so that your treatment can be altered accordingly. While any urgent procedure required might be performed, it is best to wait until after the delivery for any elective procedures which include using sedation or nasal airway. Also, consult your obstetrician before you go in for a dental appointment or X-ray just in case you require any specific medical advice. Knowing the importance of oral hygiene during pregnancy, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAP) has tailored oral health guidelines, especially for pregnant women to assist them in maintaining healthy gums and teeth. Here's a summary

Oral Hygiene
It is extremely important to brush and floss your teeth, at least twice a day during your pregnancy to remove food debris and prevent the building up of plaque. Also, scrape your tongue regularly to remove residual bacteria.

Fluoride
Pregnant women are particularly advised to use fluoridated toothpaste along with an over-the-counter alcohol-free fluoride mouthwash to help reduce the bacteria and control plaque.

Nutrition
While craving sugary foods all the time, makes this step difficult, expecting mothers are strongly advised to limit sugar intake and eat healthy and nutritious food to ensure tooth and gum health.

Treating Existing Tooth Decay
It has been deemed completely safe to treat existing tooth decay during pregnancy and even encouraged as it helps reduce the bacterial infestations associated with tooth decay and restore oral health.

Transmission of Bacteria
During pregnancy, women are also discouraged to share food or cutlery with others to avoid contamination and transmission of harmful bacteria that could cause tooth decay.

Xylitol Gum
It is also advised that expecting women chew Xylitol gum at least four times a day to remove plaque and bacteria and in turn prevent tooth decay.

Regular Checkups
Most importantly it is highly advisable to frequently visit your dentist for check-ups and undergo professional cleanings whenever required to maintain optimum oral health throughout and after your pregnancy

Now that you know the importance of maintaining your oral health during pregnancy and the procedure to do so, you should be able to have healthy teeth and gums throughout your pregnancy.

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