pregnancy and oral health

Pregnancy and your smile

Elsa – Dental Hygienist

Pregnancy and your smile

Elsabe our Dental Hygienist has just left for maternity leave, just 3 weeks before her little bub arrives. Before Elsabe left, I sat down and had the chance to ask her some questions about how her pregnancy has affected her oral health.

Pregnancy changes many things about your body, and oral health is definitely one of the areas that’s affected. Can you tell us, what have been some of the things you have noticed whilst pregnant?

Yes, pregnancy does change a lot of things. I actually feel that each different trimester has had different effects on my teeth.

During the first trimester while the feeling of nausea and vomiting was more common, this
created more acidity in my mouth which in turn increased my risk of tooth erosion. I also felt I was reaching for lemons and lemon juice to help relieve my nausea, again increasing more acidity in my mouth.

Also, in that first trimester I couldn’t tolerate the minty taste of toothpaste and the foam
created increased my nausea so I had to make a few adjustments in my daily oral care to still clean my teeth effectively.

I’ve noticed my gums bleed more easily when I floss and they often feel more inflamed and
ook redder than usual.

Bleeding gums and redness is definitely a common problem amongst pregnant ladies due to the changes in your hormone levels and the differences in your diet and oral environment. Having your teeth healthy and checked while your pregnant is something all pregnant women need to do.

Dr Paul my greatest concern for me now towards the end of my pregnancy is that I eat much
more frequently, often late at night or I struggle with insomnia and snack during the early hours of the morning often on sweets or carbs.  

And yes Dr Paul, before you say it, as a hygienist I know foods high in carbs and sugar,
frequency of eating, snacking before falling asleep when saliva flow is lowest, combined with ineffective brushing and flossing increases my risk of developing cavities.

Yes, that last part does increase your risk of developing cavities, and as many mums-to-be: teeth erosion and the higher risk of developing cavities are serious concerns while pregnant.

A lot of the problems associated with our oral health, is our daily consumption habits. And as you mention Elsabe, whilst pregnant you are eating more and snacking at all hours of the day and night.

Elsabe, whilst my wife was pregnant she craved ‘citrus’ during her last pregnancy, and the times before that was chocolate! What have been your cravings?

Oh yes and may I tell you how nice it is to give into those cravings. Throughout my pregnancy I craved any sweet foods, especially cakes with lots of icing and chocolate. I also have a craving for fish paste or anything that taste fishy. So strange isn’t it.

So all these different foods that we don’t normally consume on a daily basis definitely plays a role on our oral health during pregnancy. The frequent eating on the more unhealthy options available increases our sugar levels, which leads to more decay and tartar on our teeth, as well as depending on the acidity of the foods and drinks, can increase our mouths acidity levels helping increase teeth erosion. Elsabe, can you share some tips about how to help reduce the damaging effects on your oral hygiene.

Sure Dr Paul, as a dental hygienist this definitely has been the ideal time to test everything I have learned and know about oral health and pregnancy. So a few tips I have found useful.

  • We say it every time, and I’m going to say it again – It is vital to floss your teeth 1-2 times daily. Some days I even flossed more often during my pregnancy.
  • Because I wasn’t able to tolerate my normal toothpaste I found one with less of a minty taste and I only used a very small proportion so it wouldn’t create as much foam. But because I wasn’t using as much of my normal toothpaste, I also made sure I exposed my teeth to more fluoride.
  • Drinking lots of tap water and using an extra fluoride treatment like tooth mousse on my teeth every evening.
  • After meals and snacks I make sure I rinse my mouth with tap water and chew sugar-free gum. The gum helps to increase my saliva flow which helps wash away acids on teeth.
  • I’ve also tried to keep my fridge filled with lots of healthy snack options like carrots, celery and snow peas, rather than reaching for the biscuits and chocolate in the pantry.
  • One last tip Dr Paul that I have found to be helpful during the third trimester – is a teaspoon of bicarb soda with water. In the third trimester acid reflux can increase as the baby grows much larger and pushes the acids in the stomach back into the oesophagus. Stomach acids can easily cause erosion on teeth. A good tip is to use acid neutralising agents like rinsing with water mixed with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda after experiencing acid reflux or even after vomiting or gagging.

Very insightful Elsa and some very good little tips there, thank you. Would you like to add anything else for our mums-to-be reading this interview.

Dr Paul it’s absolutely essential to take good care of your teeth while pregnant. I personally have now seen how your risk to develop cavities increases while you’re pregnant, as well as your risk for tooth erosion.

Currently we are only allowed to treat dental emergencies and the responsibility of taking good care or your teeth at home is absolutely necessary.

I also believe once the baby has arrived there will be less time to visit the dentist. So if there is a problem, depending on your baby and how much support you have around you, you may only be able to see the dentist when the baby is a few months old. Therefore again taking good care of your teeth while pregnant is vital.

Thank you Elsa, I tend to agree, it is very important to look after your health while pregnant, and especially your oral health, as there are so many more contributing factors all working together to disrupt your oral health

 Just to refresh a few of my best tips Dr Paul:

Floss, Floss and Floss some more!! At least 1-2 times daily.

Use a high fluoridated toothpaste like Neutrafluor 5000 or Toothmouse for extra fluoride protection while pregnant. You can buy these from us at Brisbane Smiles.

Rinse your mouth after meals or snacks with tap water, which is fluoridated in Brisbane, or chew sugar-free gum after snacking if you’re out and about.

And my last piece of advice, which is probably the most hardest, believe me I know, but limiting  snacking on sweets and carbs and choosing raw vegetables like carrots, celery or snow-peas. Cheese is another great option as cheese neutralises the acids in our mouth, and gives us a great source of calcium, something we all know our growing babies need!

Elsa that is a great summary and I agree with the last added bit of advice with cheese – cheese is a great snack option!

I’d like to thank you for joining me. Good luck with everything that comes with being a new mum, only 3 weeks to go, I’m sure you can’t wait to meet your little girl. We’ll all be waiting to hear such beautiful news!

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