Being pregnant means that your body is going through changes, physical and hormonal. There's a lot happening during this unique time in your life, and keeping a good oral health and hygiene routine will have an impact on your overall health and well being. Evidence has shown that good oral health care and diet during the pre-natal term positively affect both you and your baby's development, including their teeth.
Pregnancy brings increased hormone levels in your body, and in turn an increased risk of oral health issues. Hormones can make your gums swell and become more vulnerable to plaque and bacteria and if not addressed could lead to gingivitis (gum disease).
Recent evidence links tooth decay and gum disease with low birth weight, preterm delivery and iron deficiency, so it is important to visit your dentist during pregnancy, in addition to letting your dentist know during a regular check-up that you are pregnant.
A little known fact is that the bacteria which cause tooth decay (Streptococcus mutans) can be transferred from a parent/carer to an infant through practices such as sharing of spoons and cups, testing food temperature or licking soothers (so best not to share or lick utensils). Toothbrushing is therefore very important for mothers/parents/carers.
Specific oral health tips if you are pregnant
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make your gums more vulnerable to plaque/bacteria and more likely to bleed. Floss daily to reduce plaque buildup. Ask your dental team for advise on technique.
Morning sickness - If you vomit, rinse your mouth out with water. Your teeth will be softened by your stomach acid so do not brush straight away, wait about an hour. Keep hydrated –do not sip on soft drinks or juices throughout the day, sip water. If you suffer from acid reflux or heartburn during pregnancy, the acid result can have the same effect on your teeth.
Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy. It can lead to longterm harm to your baby
Breast milk is best for babies but if infant formula is used it can be made using fluoridated tap water. The Independent, evidence-based body the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health, states that currently there is no significant evidence of any adverse effects to the health of infants consuming infant formula made up with tap water which has been fluoridated at current statutory levels in Ireland (0.6-0.8ppm Fluoride). The Expert Body emphasises that there is no recommendation to discontinue using fluoridated tap water at these levels in Ireland. Where a person is unsure about what to do, ask a health professional such as a dentist, public health nurse or paediatrician for advice.