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How to care for your teeth while pregnant

Pregnant woman brushing her teethPregnancy affects your body, your hair and your mood … so why not your teeth too!

There are a number of dental issues that you may face while pregnant. And, when your gums are bleeding or you gag every time you see a toothbrush, it isn’t always easy to care for your teeth.

But it is important to look after your oral health when you’re expecting – here are some common pregnancy-related dental issues and some tips on dealing with them.

Gagging while brushing your teeth

Many women find they have a stronger gag reflex when they’re pregnant and brushing their teeth causes them to gag. However, by not brushing regularly you can put yourself at risk of tooth erosion. It is an unpleasant feeling but you might be able to help avoid it with the following tips.

  • Brush without toothpaste and use a flouride mouth rinse afterwards.
  • Use a smaller softer toothbrush – maybe one designed for a toddler.
  • Practice your breathing techniques when brushing your back teeth.
  • Perhaps brush your teeth at a time of the day when your morning sickness isn’t so bad.
  • Practice relaxation while brushing by closing your eyes, listening to music and taking your time.

Bleeding gums, plague and gingivitis

Hormonal changes can lead to more plaque on your teeth which can lead to gingivitis or gum disease. Symptoms include swelling of the gums and bleeding. Some women experience ‘pregnancy gingivitis’ – it usually occurs in the second trimester and reverts back to normal after the baby is born.

It is important to talk to your health care provider about your teeth as the more serious forms of gum disease, if left untreated, have been linked to premature birth and low birth weight in babies.

Morning sickness and tooth erosion

Pregnant women who experience morning sickness and/or reflux are at a greater risk of dental erosion due to the regular exposure of the teeth to stomach acids. If you are pregnant and experiencing these conditions, there are a number of easy habits to prevent damage to your teeth. These include:

  • Don’t brush your teeth for at least one hour after sickness and/or reflux
  • Rinse your mouth with water, preferably fluoridated tap water, which will assist in removing acids
  • Chewing sugar free gum can stimulate saliva flow and rinse acids away
  • You can also lightly smear fluoride toothpaste on your teeth or rinse with an alcohol free fluoride mouthwash, which will help to provide additional protection against the erosive effects of vomiting and reflux

While some doctors encourage pregnant women to drink fizzy lemon drinks to help calm morning sickness, try to avoid the erosive citrus of the lemon by substituting this beverage with sparkling mineral water or rinse afterwards with water to return the mouth to a neutral pH faster. These alternatives should have the same stomach settling effect.

Cravings and snacking

Snacking throughout the day can also help to control morning sickness. Chose snacks that provide a low-acid energy boost, such as dry biscuits and crackers, and rinse with water after snacking to reduce the effect on teeth. There are low kilojoule, non acidic alternatives available from your pharmacy such as lozenges containing xylitol. See your dentist for more information on foods with a lower acidity.

Because minimising exposure of your teeth to acids is the best way to minimise tooth erosion, and given the higher level of stomach and other acids hitting your teeth during pregnancy, try to avoid eating acidic foods such as citrus fruits and drinking acidic beverages like soft drink and fruit juice during this time.

During your pregnancy, it is important to maintain dental visits and to inform your dentist of your pregnancy as this may impact on the type of care needed to maintain good oral health.

– compiled with information from the Australian Dental Association

Image credit: rocketclips/123RF Stock Photo

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