How do pregnancy and oral health relate? From morning sickness to sugar cravings, pregnancy presents certain challenges to your oral health — and vice versa. Prioritizing it is a must for expectant mothers.
When you’re pregnant, people will tell you that you’re “glowing”. Of course, soon-to-be moms know that having a bun in the oven isn’t all fun and games. Mood swings, swelling, exhaustion, morning sickness, dizziness, blurred vision, skin problems, weight gain, soreness, and a host of other symptoms that emerge on a near-daily basis can really throw you for a loop.
Between checkups, remembering to take your prenatal vitamins, and strange food cravings, you’ve got a lot on your plate. But it’s important not to neglect your oral health during this critical time. In fact, pregnancy and oral health is more important than many expectant mothers realize.
Pregnancy and Oral Health Risks
Your mouth is actually quite vulnerable during pregnancy. If you’ve developed a sudden sweet tooth, you might be more prone to developing cavities than you used to be. That’s why you should continue to have a balanced diet, rather than snacking on the sweet stuff. Increased hormone flow can also increase the risk of cavity development, along with the possibility that you’ll develop pregnancy gingivitis. Yes, that’s a real thing, and it’s a condition that is estimated to occur in over 30% of pregnant women. It often happens during the first trimester, causing inflammation and bleeding in the gums. If left untreated, this can transform into periodontitis, which can actually erode your teeth and eventually may result in tooth loss. Around 20% of U.S. adults suffer from anxiety due to the condition of their mouth and teeth, but proper care and regular dental appointments can make a world of difference.
Morning sickness can be a problem for your oral health, too. Morning sickness studies have found that at least 70% of pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting. While this symptom is certainly unpleasant in the moment, it can have long-lasting health effects, too. Because this process can increase the levels of acid in the mouth, tooth erosion can occur. One study recommended that women drink a bit of water or milk after an episode of morning sickness and should actually refrain from brushing their teeth right after.
How Your Oral Health Can Affect Your Baby
A number of oral health problems can affect the health of you and your baby. For instance, infected gums can impact your developing baby, so it’s important to stay on top of this — especially if you experience bleeding gums, plaque build-up, or any other kind of dental emergency. While only 3% of patients who go to urgent care for treatment need to be diverted to an emergency room, you won’t want to take a chance when there are lives at stake due to poor oral care.
One study recently found that pregnant mothers may want to switch to fluoride-free toothpaste during pregnancy, as there’s some evidence to suggest that fetuses may be negatively affected by higher levels of fluoride exposure. Keep in mind that tap water can also contain fluoride, which has been associated with a higher risk of ADHD symptoms in children. While fluoride can prevent cavities, it may also be linked to a lower IQ — so some experts are erring on the side of caution and are recommending that moms-to-be switch to a brand without fluoride and to watch where their water comes from.
Overall, pregnant women should be diligent about maintaining a healthy tooth care routine. Keep your regular dental appointments and continue to brush and floss regularly. Some studies have linked a mother’s oral health problems to premature births and babies with low birth weights. To protect your baby, you can amp up your pregnancy and oral health routine. That way, your smile will glow as brightly as your radiant skin does — and your baby will benefit, too.
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