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Ben Wilcox
Ben is the practice principal at Shore Dental, Sydney. He graduated with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery in 2004 and…

Oral Hygiene for When You're Expecting

December 23, 2013 by Ben Wilcox

Oral Hygiene

Image via Shutterstock.

When you're pregnant, it's likely that good dental hygiene is low on the list of priorities, especially while you deal with food cravings and morning sickness. However, it's while you're pregnant that it's most important to maintain good oral hygiene.

If you're planning well ahead, it's important to visit your dentist for a check up before you get pregnant – remember that it is safe to have routine dental treatments before and during the course of your pregnancy. If you have already fallen pregnant, you should still pay a visit, but advise your dentist that you are pregnant beforehand. Your dentist may recommend a check up during your second trimester, by which time morning sickness is much less likely to occur.

Morning sickness and reflux

Morning sickness is up there as one of the least pleasant aspects of morning sickness, occurring in about 80% of pregnant women. If you are affected by morning sickness, looking after your teeth is absolutely vital, though you may not feel like that is so at the time. If you are vomiting or experiencing reflux on a regular basis, your teeth will be exposed to strong stomach acids, which can lead to dental erosion.

In order to minimise the detrimental effects of morning sickness on your dental hygiene, avoid brushing your teeth immediately after vomiting, as the strong stomach acids may soften the tooth enamel, which will be further aggravated by the action of a toothbrush and lead to further damage. Instead, rinse your mouth with water (preferably fluoridated tap water) immediately after vomiting, and brush your teeth an hour later. Alternatively, you can lightly smear fluoride toothpaste on your teeth, or rise with an alcohol-free fluoride mouthwash, which will help to provide additional protection against stomach acids.

Food cravings

For many women, food cravings (and aversions) are common during the course of pregnancy. As strong as the cravings for sugary foods may be, it's important to try and snack on low-sugar foods in order to reduce the risk of tooth decay. If the sugar cravings are coming on especially strong, try to choose healthier options such as fresh fruits and yoghurts. Brush your teeth in between meals if your sugar content has been high, or rinse your mouth by drinking water or milk – this can help wash away decay-causing sugars from your teeth.

Gagging while brushing teeth

Pregnant women may also struggle with maintaining good dental hygiene due to the fact that that process of brushing their teeth may cause you to gag. If you find this is applicable to you, the ADA recommends you try the following:

  • Try a different flavour of fluoridated toothpaste
  • Use a toothbrush with a smaller head, such as one made for toddlers
  • Brush slowly, and try closing your eyes and concentrating on your breathing.

Gum disease (Gingivitis and Periodontitis)

Due to the increased levels of hormones that occur during pregnancy, your gums can become more sensitive to bacterial irritation and inflammation. This can lead to gingivitis, which is most likely to occur during the second trimester. Symptoms of gingivitis include redness, bleeding and swelling of the gums, especially during brushing and flossing.

Infection of the deeper gum tissue around your teeth is known as periodontitis. This condition can be exacerbated by pregnancy, which leaves your gums and teeth with permanent damage, possibly leading to tooth loss. Research has found that there is a link between periodontitis and premature birth and low birth weight babies. It is therefore of utmost important to practice good oral hygiene before, during and after pregnancy.

If you have any concerns about individualised dental advice, don't hesitate to call Shore Dental on (02) 8999 7676.