Pregnancy & oral health

All Woman

IT is a well-known fact that pregnant women are more susceptible to many health issues, including oral health conditions that prove harmful to them and their babies. Unfortunately, too many women continue to yield to the persistent myth to stay clear of their dentist's office the moment they suspect that they may be pregnant because of safety concerns for the foetus linked to professional dental treatment.

Associate dentist at Hope Dental, Dr Kimberley Oliver, says that oral health care during pregnancy is just as important as your prenatal checkups, and neglecting to seek dental care could lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes.

“Pregnant women are at higher risk for several dental conditions, including tooth decay. So just as you have regular doctors' visits for prenatal check-ups, it's also important to visit your dentist for prenatal dental care. Your dentist can discuss changes in oral health during pregnancy, what to look out for, and how to deal with them,” Dr Oliver advised.

She pointed out that dental conditions that women may begin to experience during their pregnancies include:

• Swollen, red, bleeding gums

• Loose teeth

• More than the usual amount of calculus built up on your teeth

• Pregnancy tumours on the gum

• Tooth decay (usually because of acidity in the oral cavity, sugary dietary cravings, and limited attention to oral health).

Dr Oliver explained that pregnant women are at an increased risk of these oral conditions because of the increased vulnerability of oral health directly linked to pregnancy hormones.

“During pregnancy, changes are aggravated by fluctuations in the oestrogen and progesterone levels in the body. The changing hormone levels can leave your mouth more vulnerable to bacteria and plaque, both of which create tender gums during pregnancy. This can put you at greater risk for tooth decay and gum disease,” Dr Oliver explained.

Another common cause of dental troubles is morning sickness, which is often characterised by dizzy spells and vomiting. When this occurs, the oral cavity is exposed to more gastric acid that can wear away dental enamel.

Taking good care of your teeth during pregnancy and getting guidance and treatment for dental issues is not just a benefit for the expectant mother. Dr Oliver advises that good oral health also protects your little one.

“Children of mothers who have high caries levels are more likely to get caries. Poor oral health in pregnancy also increases the chances of pregnancy complications, including premature delivery and low birth weight baby,” Dr Oliver shared.

Dr Oliver shares some tips on how you can maintain good oral health throughout your pregnancy:

•Visit your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings. This is the best way to make sure that you are maintaining good oral hygiene.

•Brush your teeth properly at least twice a day to remove plaque.

•Floss your teeth daily. Flossing will remove food debris from between the teeth that a toothbrush can't reach.

•Use mouthwash (preferably with zero per cent alcohol). This will decrease the bacterial load in the mouth.

• Patients with severe gingivitis may require professional cleaning and need to use mouth rinses such as chlorhexidine (Peridex).

• Brush or scrape your tongue daily to help remove bacteria.

• Eat nutritious meals and healthy snacks.

•For patients who suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme morning sickness), the use of antiemetics, antacids, or both may reduce this. So talk to your physician about them.

• Rinsing the mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water after vomiting can neutralise acids after this happens.

• Pregnant women are advised to avoid brushing their teeth immediately after vomiting and to use a toothbrush with soft bristles when they do brush to reduce the risk of enamel damage.

• Fluoride mouthwash can protect eroded or sensitive teeth.

Dr Kimberley Oliver is an associate dentist at Hope Dental, Liguanea. She can be contacted at (876) 436-7970 or at kimoliver@gmail.com.

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