Pregnant? Better take good care of your pearly whites
Did you know, teeny little teeth begin to develop from the fifth week of embryonic life, and permanent teeth begin development at about four months into pregnancy. Too cute!
So, the nutritional habits of mum are super-important during pregnancy to make healthy little teeth – by being aware of the foods that are needed for strong bones and teeth, you are already beginning to take care of your baby's oral health. During pregnancy, your diet should include a variety of meat, milk, dairy products, fruit and vegetables.
Your bones and nutrition, and not your own teeth, are the sources that provide calcium for bone and tooth development of your baby. So, the myth that the infant is 'stealing' calcium from the mother has no scientific basis.
During pregnancy, there's also a surge in hormone secretion. This hormonal increase may result in pain, swelling and bleeding of the gums. About 50-60% of pregnant women experience bleeding of the gums - it actually has a name: Pregnancy gingivitis. Regular check-ups are so important as well as an increased emphasis on brushing and flossing will minimise the dental effects of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy.
There is also a link between mothers who suffer from periodontitis (breakdown of the supporting structures of the teeth, or gum disease) and premature labour. It is currently thought that the infection of the gums causes bacteria to enter the blood stream, which can actually bring on premature labour. About 20% of the Irish population suffer from periodontitis, so it's advisable to attend your dentist for a screening either before or during your pregnancy.
Top Tips during pregnancy
1. Eat a well-balanced diet
Include breads and grains, two-four servings of fresh fruit, four or more servings of vegetables, four servings of dairy products, and three servings of protein sources (meat, poultry, fish, eggs or nuts). Use fats and sweets sparingly of course.
2. Pregnant patients should decrease their risk of decay
By brushing in the morning and evening with a fluoride toothpaste and limiting sugary foods. If you have decay, or it has been some time since you have a check-up, you should see your dentist pronto.
3. Avoid food cravings
It's common to have cravings for different types of foods during your pregnancy, but obviously if your particular craving is for sugary foods, then you are at an increased risk for dental decay. Try to snack on sugar-free foods as much as possible or have them as close to meal times as possible.
4. Morning sickness and reflux
A high percentage of women experience morning sickness either at the start or right through their pregnancy. Vomiting or reflux can expose your teeth to strong stomach acids, which in turn can cause dental erosion and decay. To help reduce the risk of erosion and decay you should follow these points:
- Do not brush immediately after vomiting. Strong stomach acids can soften your tooth enamel and the vigorous action of the toothbrush may scratch the tooth enamel, leading to further damage. Wait at least an hour after vomiting before brushing your teeth
- Rinse well with water after getting sick, this will help to remove acid.
- You can lightly smear fluoride toothpaste on your teeth. Alternatively, rinse with a fluoride mouthwash, this will help to strengthen your teeth and protect against stomach acids.
Dr Sarah Flannery B. Dent. Sc. (Hons) TCD is a dentist with Seapoint Clinic, she specialises in a wide range of cosmetic and general treatments, including children's dentistry.