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Dental health and pregnancy

Before pregnancy

If your usual dental routine includes brushing twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste, flossing and regular visits to your dentist, you may be less likely to develop dental problems during pregnancy.

Also, a visit to your dentist when planning a pregnancy enables you to have any dental problems treated before you become pregnant.

During pregnancy

Dental check-ups

Continue with regular dental visits during your pregnancy. Tell your dentist that you are pregnant and discuss any concerns you may have.

Dental problems and pregnancy

It is important to tell your dentist about any problems with your gums. Try using a softer toothbrush and ensure you clean your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste.

Some women may feel like retching while brushing their teeth. It is important to continue caring for your teeth so trying using a small toothbrush (toddler-size) and slowing your brushing action. If the taste of the toothpaste is the problem try another brand or brush with water and rinse with a fluoridated mouthwash.

  1. Gum disease. The hormonal changes of pregnancy may affect how your teeth react to plaque, increasing your risk of gum disease. There are two main types of gum disease:
    • Gingivitis—inflammation of the gums. Pregnancy gingivitis is common and you may notice swelling and bleeding of your gums, especially when brushing and flossing your teeth
    • Periodontal disease—usually caused by untreated gingivitis. This is a chronic gum infection which can lead to loss of teeth and may increase your risk of preterm birth.
  2. Vomiting. Your stomach contents are quite acidic and, if you are vomiting regularly due to morning sickness, can damage your tooth enamel, increasing your risk of tooth decay. To minimise any damage to your teeth:
    • rinse your mouth with water or a fluoridated mouthwash after vomiting.
    • do not brush your teeth for at least 30 to 60 minutes after vomiting; the enamel is softened by the gastric acids and brushing can scratch the surface, potentially damaging the enamel.
    • smear toothpaste over your teeth with a finger and rinse.
  3. Cravings. The acid content in sugary snacks and sweet drinks can increase your risk of tooth decay. If you are craving these types of foods, try choosing a wider variety of snacks with decreased sugar content. Rinse your mouth with water afterwards and remember to brush regularly.

What about my baby’s teeth?

During pregnancy

Your baby’s teeth begin to develop at about six weeks and calcification (hardening) occurs from about four months. Your baby’s calcium requirements (for healthy bones and teeth) are supplied through your diet and if that is inadequate, your bones.

The recommended daily requirement for calcium during pregnancy and breastfeeding is 1000 mg. This can usually be provided by three to four serves of dairy foods each day. One serve is equal to:

  • one glass of milk (250 ml)
  • one tub of yoghurt (200 g)
  • two slices of cheese (40 g).

After birth

Breastfeed:

The unique sucking action that your baby uses to breastfeed, promotes normal oral cavity development, reducing the risk of orthodontic problems in later years.

This unique sucking action also means that your baby draws the nipple into the back of their mouth so that the milk is released into the throat which then stimulates your baby to swallow. In comparison, during bottle feeding the milk is more likely to pool around the teeth, as it is released into the front of the mouth.

Research indicates that breastfeeding may be protective against the development of dental caries. Bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) causes tooth decay and antibodies found in breast milk may help to inhibit the growth of these bacteria.

Other ways to help prevent early childhood tooth decay include:

  • Never put your baby to bed with a bottle, or ‘prop’ a bottle in your baby’s mouth.
  • To avoid transferring any bacteria from your mouth to your baby’s mouth, use a separate spoon to taste their food, once they have commenced solid foods. Also, do not use your mouth to clean a pacifier, if your baby is using one.
  • Use a soft baby toothbrush (without toothpaste) to gently clean your baby’s teeth when they start to appear.
  • Dental visits should start at about your child’s second birthday.

References

  1. Australian Dental Association INC. Oral health and pregnancy. [Internet] Cited 4 December 2013. Available from: http://www.babyteeth.com.au/static/pdfs/pregnancy-fs-web.pdf
  2. Australian Breastfeeding Association. Breastfeeding and tooth decay. [Internet] March 2012; cited 10 December 2013. Available from: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/breastfeeding-and-tooth-decay
  3. Queensland Health. Keeping teeth and gums healthy during pregnancy. [Internet] 2008; cited 4 December 2013. Available from: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/breastfeeding-and-tooth-decay
  4. State Government of Victoria Better health Channel. Teeth and Pregnancy. [Internet] 2013; cited 4 December 2013. Available from: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Teeth_and_pregnancy
  5. The University of Adelaide; Dental Practice Education Research Unit. Oral Health during pregnancy. [Internet] Cited 4 December 2013. Available from: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/arcpoh/dperu/special/pregnancy/pregnancy_DL.pdf
  6. SA Health. Pregnancy and dental care. [Internet] Cited 4 December 2013. Available from: http://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au
Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Last modified 17/11/2015.
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