By Jennifer F. Idam
Remember that moment you first discovered you were pregnant? The feeling you got when the news came, and the way you felt when you placed your hands on your tummy? Oh! The rush of excitement that took over your cloud of curiosity- an unexplainable burst of joy born out of knowing that you were carrying a baby? It was like heaven on earth- I guess!
Let us quickly move from the first day to the third month, when it became obvious you were pregnant. All of a sudden, it seemed everyone had one or two advice for you. Everyone unexpectedly became a pregnancy care expert. They advised on what and what not to eat, how to prevent morning sickness, how to keep stretch marks at bay, and so on. However, despite the volume of overwhelming information you were loaded with, one important piece was left untouched. You were probably not told about the importance of caring for your teeth and gum during this delicate season.
Many believe that having a poor oral health is normal in pregnancy. As a matter of fact, some even believe the old wife’s tale, that you lose a tooth for every baby. Of course, hormonal changes in pregnancy can affect oral health, but some of these conditions are preventable and manageable.
To start with, what are the dental challenges you may face as a pregnant woman?
Peridontal Disease (e.g. pregnancy gingivitis)
This is when your gum is swollen, tender and bleeding. This happens between 2-8 months of pregnancy and usually goes away after child birth.
Poor oral hygiene
Irritation from dental plaque
Note: (Unchecked gum disease can lead to destructive periodontitis)
As a pregnant woman you may feel like your teeth is moving or feel a bit loose. According to research, the pregnancy hormones, progesterone and Oestrogen, loose the teeth support, which makes pregnant women feel as if their teeth are moving. However, this goes away after childbirth.
Disease of the support of the teeth (periodontitis)
Almost all through the pregnancy period, you experience cravings, most of which are for sweet things, all of which will leave your teeth susceptible to decay. This appears as a dark or whitish decay (hole) on the tooth.
Poor oral hygiene
Excessive intake of sugary food or snacks without proper
Tooth brushing or rinsing out after intake.
Over Growth Of Gum (Epulis or Pyogenic Granuloma)
This is a tumour-like growth on the gum, and can sometimes lead to excessive bleeding. Pregnant women also mostly experience this.
Remains unknown but is escalated by poor oral hygiene
Why Should You Pay Attention?
Simple!! Poor oral health can cause PREMATURE DELIVERY, LOW BIRTH WEIGHT for the baby, and PRE-ECLAMPSIA (High blood pressure) for you as the mom. Think about it- It is not worth it! Due to space and time constraints, I will not be able to deeply explain how these happens, but I would employ you to research and read up more on these.
Here is my closing remark:
1. Please, make sure you visit the dental clinic before, during and after pregnancy. This will help you check existing dental problem prior to being pregnant, and will help manage it before and during and pregnancy, and after childbirth.
2. When you have morning sickness and you vomit, please don’t brush immediately. Rinse with water and then wait a while before brushing. Vomit contains stomach acids that can wear away (erode) the teeth surface.
3. I know the cravings are real, and I totally understand that most times you can’t help it. But darling please be careful, at this stage your teeth is susceptible to dental decay. Try brushing or rinsing after you take them.
4. Don’t be the doctor! If you need a dental procedure, please go visit your dentist. If you need a medication while nursing, please consult with your doctor first, to make sure it’s safe for the baby.
5. Your baby’s teeth starts forming by the third month of your pregnancy, so what you eat is very crucial. Take the right dosage of vitamins A, C, D, Protein, calcium, phosphorous and folic acid. They are important.
6. Try avoiding X-rays especially during your first trimester, as this is harmful to your baby.
7. Breast-feeding reduces the risk of your baby having what we call “baby bottle tooth decay.” This condition happens when a baby’s teeth is prolonged and frequently exposed to sugary drinks. E.g. when you put your baby to bed with a bottle containing milk, juice or any drink aside water.
8. During the time when anything and everything may make you gag (i.e. feel like vomiting), take it slow and figure out what works best for you. If changing your toothpaste or changing your toothbrush head to a smaller one or even brushing at different time of the day will help, please go at your pace.
Finally, the baby is here now you need to take care of his/her teeth, even if they are not yet obvious. Begin with wiping your baby’s gum with a clean moist gauze pad, or washcloth, then later with a toothbrush and sugar free toothpaste.
Jennifer F. Idam is a dental therapist