For most women, visiting an east Portland dentist may not top their to-do lists during pregnancy. After all, nine months even isn’t enough time plan and prepare to welcome a new life into the world. To-do lists may seem never-ending: OB/GYN appointments, exercise classes, and nursery organization all take time and energy to organize and attend. Yet pregnancy is not the time to start ignoring your oral hygiene. Dental care during pregnancy is vital to both the health of the mother and the unborn child. That’s why the dental team at East Portland Dentistry encourages expectant mothers to continue maintaining oral health during pregnancy. It’s the smart and healthy thing to do!
Pregnancy May Bring a Mouthful of Oral Health Concerns
Hormonal changes during pregnancy increase the risk of gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal (gum) disease. Women’s gums may develop higher sensitivity to plaque, causing gums to become red, swollen, and tender. Gums may bleed easily when brushing the teeth or flossing between teeth. If left untreated, gingivitis may lead to serious gum diseases, potentially resulting in tooth loss. Maintaining a healthy smile requires visiting the dentist for regular cleanings during pregnancy, especially if gum sensitivity occurs.
Many pregnant women also develop pregnancy tumors, which are again linked to hormonal changes and the buildup of plaque. Growths or swellings on the gums or between teeth are common, particularly during the second trimester of pregnancy, and may be unsightly and/or uncomfortable. Secondary infections can stem from pregnancy tumors, so seek dental treatment if gums are red, raw, and painfully inflamed. Rest assured that pregnancy tumors are not cancerous and often disappear once the mother gives birth. However, if the growths linger, a dentist can remove them. Dr. Joy Arend can counsel patients about this minor surgical procedure.
Morning sickness may also impact dental health. Vomiting brings stomach acid into contact with the teeth, and acid erodes tooth enamel. Though brushing the teeth immediately after vomiting may seem hygienic, it is better to rinse the mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in water and to brush the teeth an hour later. This gives time for the acids wash away, and your teeth time to recover. Women who suffer severe morning sickness should alert their dentist, and may wish to schedule additional routine cleanings. A quick visit to see your east Portland dentist can make a mouthful of difference.
Pregnancy and Dental Safety
Dental X-rays during pregnancy are generally safe and are considered less of a health risk than forgoing necessary dental treatment. Radiation exposure from dental X-rays is minimal; a leaded apron and collar will cover the abdomen and the thyroid, respectively. Dr. Joy Arend and the team at East Portland Dentistry are available to address any questions or concerns and will advise with the best interests of both mother and baby in mind.
Local anesthetics during pregnancy are also safe. For example, lidocaine shots used to numb the mouth do not pose harm to the mother or baby. A 2015 study published in Journal of the American Dental Association asserted that local anesthetics do not increase the rate of miscarriages, premature births, or birth defects and do not affect the weight of the baby. Dental procedures such as fillings or root canal need not be postponed until after giving birth. The dentists and hygienists at East Portland Dentistry take comfort in providing safe, local anesthetics to ensure that mothers-to-be can receive necessary, pain-free procedures.
A Baby’s Healthy Teeth Begin Before Birth
An unborn baby’s oral development begins at about six weeks of pregnancy. At this early stage, the basic substance of the tooth takes root, so to speak. Between three and six months of pregnancy, the hard tissue surrounding the teeth forms. To help ensure healthy tooth development, the mother should consume foods rich in calcium, phosphorus, protein, and vitamins A, C, and D. Calcium-rich foods are particularly important; three servings of dairy products are recommended daily. For those who do not tolerate dairy products well, an OB/GYN may recommend calcium supplements. Phosphorus is a mineral associated with the hardness of teeth and is plentiful in protein-rich foods such as meats, poultry, fish, nuts, beans, whole grains, and dairy.
Certain medicines should not be taken during pregnancy. Tetracycline, for example, can cause discoloration of the unborn baby’s developing teeth. Pregnant women should inform both their doctor and dentist of all medications—even over-the-counter drugs—that they are taking. The dental team at East Portland Dentistry will discuss medications with the OB/GYN to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Tips to Maintain a Healthy Mouth During Pregnancy:
- Brush at least twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay.
- Floss daily.
- Use an anti-bacterial mouthwash if plaque buildup is a concern.
- Limit sugary foods and beverages. Yes, sugar cravings are common during pregnancy, but since pregnant women’s teeth are especially susceptible to decay-causing plaque, limiting sugar consumption is essential to oral health.
- Avoid all forms of tobacco.
- Continue routine dental treatment and do not put off urgent care. Poor oral hygiene during pregnancy has been associated with intrauterine growth restriction, premature delivery, and gestational diabetes.
The dental professionals at East Portland Dentistry appreciate that pregnancy is a time of celebration and anticipation. We also understand that pregnancy may be stressful and possibly perplexing when it comes to best health practices. Oral health is our profession and passion. Visit us to provide the best dental care for mothers-to-be and guidelines for healthy tooth development for babies-to-be. Put seeing an east Portland dentist on the to-do list today.