Are you expecting a baby? Are you brushing for two? What happens to your baby when you are not taking care of your teeth?
Pregnancy requires proper care before, during and after a child's birth. Imagine a farmer. She/he prepares land before growing plants, applies fertilizer as the plants grow, waters them and pulls out weeds to produce good products. In the same way, long before a woman becomes pregnant, she and her family need to ensure that she is healthy. We try to check that she has no nutritional deficiency or complications, maintains a healthy diet and does the necessary exercise. However, we often overlook dental health as we focus on getting all these other things taken care of. So, if you are planning for a baby, also plan for your dental care. Don't forget to read this article either, because here I showcase key points regarding dental complications that may occur during pregnancy.
In different stages of life, people face dental problems. Pregnancy is one of these stages. Pregnancy-related physiological changes can cause some dental problems, which may significantly impact the overall health of a mother and her child. Links have been found between severe gum disease in pregnant women and premature birth with low birth weight.
Excessive bacteria grown in a pregnant woman's mouth can enter the bloodstream through her gums and reach the uterus which may trigger prostaglandins production. This chemical is suspected to induce premature labour. Up to 18 out of every 100 premature births could be linked to severe gum infection or periodontal disease, according to some findings. Premature babies might have risks of brain injury, and vision and hearing problems.
After birth, children face problems such as early childhood caries or ECC which affects babies between birth and 71 months old. ECC can be defined by the presence of one or more decayed, missing, or filled tooth surfaces in any primary tooth. ECC can be caused by the bacteria in the baby's mouth or transmitted from the mother. and the transmission increases when a mother has poor oral health and dental caries.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, ECC can lead to emergency room visits and even hospitalization due to tooth infection. Moreover, children may miss school and have a decreased ability to learn, which may push them to poorer quality of life.
Common health practices that can aggravate bacterial transmission are kissing a child on the lips, sharing spoons when feeding, and offering a bottle of milk during bedtime. If you give milk to your child before bedtime, then make sure the child brushes his/her teeth after drinking it. Otherwise, if children have milk pooling in their mouths, the bacteria there convert the sugar in milk to acid and damage tooth enamel.
Issues related to dental health during pregnancy:
Pregnancy hormones sometimes can put women at risk of gum problems. If someone faces gum problems during pregnancy, she needs to consult a dentist before childbirth. Usually, gum problems caused by pregnancy hormones resolve after birth.
After vomiting, teeth can get in contact with strong stomach acids, which can damage the enamel of the tooth and increase the risk of decay.
Cravings for sugary foods
Sometimes pregnancy creates unusual cravings for sugary foods and these can increase the risk of tooth decay.
Gagging while brushing teeth
Brushing teeth, particularly the back, can cause gagging. However, it's important to brush teeth properly to avoid tooth decay.
Dental problems are less likely to happen during pregnancy if women look after their teeth and gums before becoming pregnant.
Recommendations for dental health care:
- Brushing teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to reduce the risk of complications in pregnancy and dental infection in newborn babies
- Flossing between teeth once a day
- Eating a healthy diet and limiting food and drinks that are high in added sugar. If you are planning to have sugary snacks, then brush your teeth properly after eating them and use fluoride-containing mouthwash
- Visiting the dentist every 6 to 12 months
- While planning on pregnancy, consulting with a dentist about any treatments needed before pregnancy
- Getting regular prenatal dental care during pregnancy
- Avoid brushing teeth immediately after vomiting, because that may scratch the tooth enamel
- Meeting Calcium and vitamin D requirements to protect your bone and proper development of the baby
- Avoiding tobacco products
A woman can prevent dental problems by improving her oral health, and by maintaining proper food choices and oral hygiene practices; however, she needs support from friends and family to do this. By paying attention to your health and seeking support from others you can overcome dental challenges during pregnancy.
Sharmin Sultana is a public health communication professional and a freelance health and nutrition writer and is currently working for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA.