The Top 5 Myths of Oral Health During Pregnancy
When you’re in the midst of a pregnancy, teeth are probably the last thing on your mind. Your ankles are swelling, your old clothes just won’t fit, and the combinations of cravings and mood swings is simply irritating. All in all, you’re sidelined from some of your favorite regular activities. You’re oscillating between doctors’ offices, and the idea of sitting with a dentist for an hour sounds thoroughly unappealing.
However, ignoring your oral health during your pregnancy can lead to serious consequences in the long term. Practicing good oral health during pregnancy means a healthier pregnancy, baby, and smile.
Like anything else involving pregnancy, everyone has an opinion about what is and isn’t safe for a pregnant woman when it comes to dentistry. There’s a lot of confusion and fear determining what meds you should or shouldn’t be on, what procedures you should avoid, or what foods you should eat. So what’s fact and what’s fiction?
Organizations like the American Dental Association and the National Institute of Health have weighed in on what pregnant women should actually be doing to keep their teeth healthy during the course of their pregnancy. Here are some of the most popular myths, and the definitive conclusions from reputable research institutions.
Myth #1: You don’t need to go to the dentist during your pregnancy.
At minimum, you should be going to your regularly scheduled dental cleanings. That means twice a year at least. It’s actually even better to up the frequency of your dental cleanings. You should even plan visits before you plan on getting pregnant and right after the pregnancy to ensure your teeth are healthy beforehand and directly after.
Myth #2: X-rays are bad for the baby.
The National Institute of Health says otherwise. X-rays are fine for both you and your baby. When you go in for an X-ray, you’ll have a heavy apron put over your torso to protect you against anything harmful.
Understandably, expecting mothers are hesitant about what procedures and medications they’re issued. In reality, most dental procedures are safe for the baby. If you need a filling or another procedure that requires numbing, fear not: Local anesthetic is just fine for the baby. Trust your dentist’s expertise.
Myth #3: My dentist doesn’t need to know if I’m pregnant.
Tell your dentist immediately if you are currently or are going to become pregnant. He or she should know what medications you’re taking during your pregnancy to make sure you’re not issued something that could be harmful in combination. Like any other doctor, your dentist will need to know if your body is undergoing serious change.
Myth #4: Loss of calcium is the worst thing that can happen to my teeth during pregnancy.
It’s certainly important to take prenatal vitamins to ensure you’re keeping up levels of calcium in your body during pregnancy. However, this isn’t the greatest risk to your teeth while expecting.
As pregnant mothers definitely know, hormone levels fluctuate frequently and intensely over the course of the pregnancy. High levels of the hormone progesterone during pregnancy can increase the amount of acid present in the mouth. This can eventually lead to gingivitis, which results in red, swollen gums that bleed during brushing and flossing. If gingivitis goes untreated, it can lead to periodontitis, a serious infection that damages gums and can actually destroy the jawbone.
In rare cases, the increasing acid in a pregnant woman’s mouth can travel to the baby, causing low birth weight or premature birth.
Another concern is frequent morning sickness. The acid left in your mouth from vomiting can slowly erode enamel, causing tooth decay. This can lead to cavities or, in worse cases, tooth loss.
Some women experience “pregnancy tumors” during their second trimester. This isn’t cancerous, rather it is the buildup of excess tissue around the gums that can cause occasional bleeding. These simply go away after pregnancy for most women, but if the issue persists, you should always check with a dentist.
While all of this sounds a bit scary, regular trips to the dentist can alleviate a lot of potential problems. Also just keeping up healthy brushing and flossing habits during the pregnancy can greatly reduce the chance of infection or illness.
Myth #5: Risk of oral disease or decay stops after pregnancy.
Breastfeeding mothers can experience many of the same dental issues even after the baby’s been delivered. Nursing women may experience tooth decay if they’re not staying hydrated and brushing and flossing regularly. Breastfeeding moms can also experience up to 5 percent bone loss, which can lead to gingivitis. The American Dental Association has also noted that some women experience teeth grinding (also known as bruxism) during nursing due to soreness of the face or neck. Nursing moms should be eating diets low in sugar and carbs to avoid tooth decay.
Expecting moms should keep a close eye on their dental health before, during, and after pregnancy. This is the most intense change a body can endure, and every facet of your health can be impacted. Maintaining a healthy smile will reduce the risk of serious infection later on, as well as ensure your baby stays healthy. It’s also never too early to plan your baby’s first dentist visit – Start encouraging good oral health early!
At Paradigm Dental, we’re committed to the care of expecting moms to make sure their pregnancy runs as smoothly as possible. We know juggling appointments during pregnancy is exhausting, so we want to make maintaining your oral health as simple as possible.
Our staff is fully trained to meet all of your needs, so if you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, in the midst of a pregnancy, or adjusting to life post-pregnancy, schedule an appointment with us today! Our suggestion? For moms to be, schedule your next check-up before your third trimester: You may find sitting in a dentist’s chair for too long pretty uncomfortable by then!