Clean teeth and good oral hygiene are not just a mere necessity but a priority during pregnancy, as the state of your mouth can affect the general and dental health of your unborn child.
M&B explores the dental problems that can affect you during pregnancy, and how to avert them to have a safe delivery and better health of your child...
We all know the importance of brushing and flossing. And we all do follow this mundane activity religiously every morning and night. Over the years, this has become an inseparable, almost involuntary action of ours, acting like a reflex, dragging our sleepy self out of bed in the morning and reaching for the toothbrush. But during pregnancy, dental care needs optimum attention and cannot be taken lightly. “At this time, due to certain hormonal changes, the gums become more susceptible to the bacteria in the plaque. It is common to develop gum disease during pregnancy. Hence, it is also important to keep your mouth clean as any oral infection during pregnancy is a matter of concern,” says Karishma Jaradia, Dentzz Dental Clinic, Mumbai. A mouth infection can lead to complications such as premature birth and low birth weight of the child. Worse, it can also put the unborn baby at risk of developing lifelong conditions like cerebral palsy, chronic lung disease or even death. In fact, pregnant women with gum disease are six times more likely to deliver early than women with healthy gums.
Even though it is emphasised that you must have good oral hygiene during pregnancy, you should go by the golden rule of ‘Prevention is better than cure’, suggests Dr Jaradia. “You will not be able to undergo any major dental procedures during those nine months, but, at the same time, you cannot take a chance with an infection or cavity in your mouth, as that can affect your baby. So, get a dental check up done right in the beginning when you are planning your pregnancy,” advises Dr Jaradia. She further explains that a dental check-up is as necessary as other tests done while planning a baby, as even a minor cavity can lead to major troubles during pregnancy.
There are certain dental problems that occur during pregnancy due to hormonal changes and some that need to be nipped in the bud to avert complications. Below is the lowdown on dental troubles that can pose to be a threat to your child and what you can do to avoid them...
A cavity in your teeth can sit silently for years without causing pain. That simply doesn’t mean you are off troubles. The National Centre for Health Statistics states that one in 10 children below the age of six, suffers from baby bottle tooth decay. Other research suggests a link between maternal oral health during pregnancy and development of early childhood caries. Since tooth decay is a communicable disease, a reduction in the maternal cavity-causing bacteria may diminish transmission from the mother to the baby.
What you can do: Visit a dentist if you have a decayed tooth or cavity for too long while you plan for a baby. Get a root canal done or discuss with your dentist the consequences of the decayed tooth. “A root canal is a complete no-no during pregnancy because the X-rays taken during the root canal are harmful for the baby,” says Dr Jaradia. If at all a treatment is necessary, it can only be done during the second trimester and that too it would be restricted to a basic clean-up or filing. Avoid any major treatment during the first trimester as the baby’s essential organs are developing and can be affected due to various medicines injected in the mouth.
Bleeding gums or pregnancy gingivitis is common during pregnancy due to hormonal changes, as the tissues in the gums are more susceptible to the bacteria. The gums become fluffy, swollen, leading to inflammation and bleeding. Also consumption of excessive sugary food can lead to gingivitis during pregnancy. This problem goes away on its own soon after the baby is delivered.
What You can do: Get back to basic brushing and flossing, carefully removing the plaque accumulated in the teeth to ward off the bacteria that causes gingivitis. Brush your teeth twice daily with a toothpaste that contains fluoride and floss at least once during the day. If you are snacking more often, then make sure you brush more often to avoid plaque accumulation. A professional clean-up during early pregnancy can also help prevent most gum problems.
You may notice a small red, painless nodule on your gum during your second trimester. It is called a pregnancy tumour or pyogenic granuloma. This tumour may bleed when you brush your teeth or eat. It is caused due to excess plaque. Like gingivitis, the tumour (or tumours) also disappears after childbirth, but can cause an infection if left unattended during pregnancy.
What you can do: Brush and floss to avoid plaque accumulation. If the tumours do not leave on their own, a surgical intervention might be needed to get rid of them after childbirth.
Advanced gingivitis leads to periodontal disease. In periodontitis, the gums pull away, forming spaces around the teeth causing bacteria to dwell, hence increasing the chances of an infection. Studies show that the bacteria enters the blood stream through the mouth and travels to the uterus causing premature birth and low birthweight of the child. The bacteria reaches the uterus and triggers the production of prostaglandins, which induces premature labour. If the baby is born too soon, it can’t reach its full potential weight.
What you can do: Apart form brushing and flossing, have plenty of calcium. “This will help your jaws to be strong to hold your teeth in place. Since your baby also needs calcium for better bone and teeth development, your calcium intake needs to be sufficient for both,” says Dr Jaradia. Unattended periodontitis can lead to shaky tooth or loss of teeth post-pregnancy. Regular oral care can prevent periodontal diseases in pregnancy. M&B
Get Teeth-Smart During Pregnancy
* Brush your teeth after every meal.
* Floss at least once a day
* Get a dental check-up and cleaning done preferably during your first trimester.
* If you have morning sickness, rinse teeth thoroughly. Nausea may lead to increased snacking and a craving for sweets. This may increase the risk of cavities.
* Chew a sugar-free chewing gum for 10 minutes after eating a snack.
* Avoid sweets and sticky foods.
* Have wholesome foods such as cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables, as they are good for your teeth. Eat grains rich in fibre, whole-wheat bread, cereals like oatmeal, etc.
* Drink lots of water as it is the best drink during pregnancy.
* Brush your teeth with a soft tooth brush even if your gums bleed. This will get rid of bacteria.
* Avoid using mouthwashes during pregnancy. Never swallow the mouthwash if at all you use one.
Words: Debjani Sengupta Arora
Visuals: Mother & Baby Picture Library