When a woman is pregnant, OB-GYN visits always come first. But that often means other appointments are overlooked. In fact, one recent study by Cigna found that 43% of women don’t go for dental checkups while they’re expecting, even though 76% of them admit to problems such as bleeding gums and toothaches. Hormonal changes during pregnancy puts you at higher risk for tooth decay, gum disease (also known as “pregnancy gingivitis”) and oral growths called “pregnancy tumors.”
While 63% of women before pregnancy say their oral health is very good or excellent, that number drops to 55% during pregnancy. Also, 36% of expectant mothers say it has been more than a year since their last dental visit, primarily because of cost even among those with insurance.
“Dental checkups are so important that most dental benefit plans cover preventative care visits every 6 months with no or low out-of-pocket costs. Some dental benefit plans even have special maternity programs with additional services like extra cleanings or discounts on oral health prescriptions,” said Dr. Jeff Morrison. "If you don't have dental insurance, our in-office
provides discounted preventive care, as well as 15% off any dental care you may need."
Here are five ways to care for your teeth when pregnant:
- Don’t skip the dentist. Preventive dental cleanings and exams during pregnancy are not only safe, but are recommended. The rise in hormone levels during pregnancy can cause the gums to swell, bleed, and trap food causing increased irritation to your gums. Some studies show a link between periodontitis (a gum disease) and premature birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and low birthweight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces). Taking good care of your gums and teeth during pregnancy can help you and your baby be healthy.
- Switch to a softer toothbrush. This will help you to apply gentle pressure to your gums. According to BabyCenter, “about half of moms-to-be have swollen, red, tender gums that bleed when flossed or brushed.” This is due to pregnancy gingivitis, or mild inflammation of the gums during pregnancy. Rising hormone levels can be partly to blame for your gums’ sensitivity to bacteria in plaque. This leads us to the next point…
- Take good care of your gums. Along with periodontal disease, the March of Dimes cites gingivitis as a condition that pregnant women are more susceptible to. Periodontal disease during pregnancy is linked to premature birth and low birth weight. Dr. Morrison may recommend more frequent cleanings to help control gingivitis so that it does not progress to more serious gum disease.
- Brush regularly. Acidity levels in the mouth increase during pregnancy, which increases the potential for cavities. Brush thoroughly with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Vomiting due to morning sickness can create acidic environment. If you have morning sickness and are vomiting frequently, try rinsing with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with water to stop stomach acid from attacking your teeth. If you need help controlling plaque Dr. Morrison may recommend rinsing at night with an antimicrobial mouth rinse.
- Eat well—protect your baby's teeth. Diet deficiencies during pregnancy may cause changes in baby’s tooth formation and leave their teeth at greater risk for decay later in life. Children of mothers who consume sugar in large quantities are four times more likely to suffer from tooth decay than those of moms with low sugar consumption. Instead, choose foods that are high in calcium and phosphorous, vitamins and minerals.
So that we can provide you with the best dental care possible during your pregnancy, be sure to share this important information with us when you schedule:
- Let us know if you suspect you are pregnant - even if you are not sure yet, we want to know.
- Let us know what month you are in when you make your appointment.
- Tell us if your pregnancy is high-risk pregnancy or you have some other medical condition or concern such as vomiting due to morning sickness.
- Let us know if there is any change in the medications you take or if you have received any special advice from your physician.
- Keep us informed of any changes in your mouth such as swelling, redness or bleeding gums.
There are so many benefits of receiving dental care during pregnancy - don't put your oral health on the back burner! Always contact our staff with questions or if you need to schedule an appointment. We can be reached at 919 755 3450 and you can also schedule
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