10 ways to look after your teeth in pregnancy
Did you know over 90% of women suffer with gum problems when they are pregnant? Read on for our expert's tips on easy ways to maintain a healthy smile when you're expecting
Increased hormone levels boost blood circulation which has all kinds of strange effects on your body – from making your nose feel more stuffy to causing red, swollen or bleeding gums. This can also increase the likelihood of plaque build-up. Argh!
But don't worry, with the MATB1 certificate you can get from your GP, you can get free dental care when you're pregnant. Plus, we've got some really useful advice from Dr Sameer Patel, Clinical Director at Elleven.
1. Check those gums
You're at increased risk of pregnancy gingivitis (gum disease) so when you brush your teeth morning and night, take a good look at those gums. Pay particular attention to any changes like tenderness, bleeding or swollen gums, and visit your dentist before the problem develops.
2. Brush your teeth and floss thoroughly
Keep up your dental routine and that will help put off the onset of gingivitis or periodontitis (a more serious form of gum disease). This is caused when plaque extends beyond the gum line and leads to infection. Keeping your mouth and teeth as clean as possible will make a big difference. Ask your dentist and hygienist about your care routine and keep up with your appointments during both pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding.
3. When you brush, stock to the 'four minute rule'
Dr Sameer advises brushing teeth for four minutes in both the morning and evening, which will help to reduce the build-up of even the smallest amounts of plaque. This is crucial because during pregnancy smaller amounts than usual can create early gum disease.
4. Think twice before using mouthwash
If you see your gums bleeding when brushing, talk to your dentist. Using a mouthwash can stain your teeth and build up antibacterial resistance if used for a long time. 'Pregnant women should only use strong mouthwash as a way to prevent gum disease if prescribed by their dentist,' says Sameer.
5. Use a softer toothbrush
Be kind to those swollen, inflamed pregnancy gums of yours! Brushing regularly will help in the long run but a softer brush will allow you to get the job done without too much abrasion. And choose a toothpaste for sensitive teeth if your gums are tender. Try not to rinse after brushing, as this reduces the desensitising effect of the toothpaste.
6. Eat a healthy and balanced pregnancy diet
Your baby's first teeth start to develop from about three months into pregnancy. A diet containing dairy products, cheese, and yoghurt will ensure you have a good supply of essential minerals – perfect for baby's developing teeth, gums, and bones. Sweet cravings are common during pregnancy, but try to avoid sugary snacks and don't forget: the more frequently you snack, the greater the chance there is of developing tooth decay.
7. Keep up your calcium and vitamin C intake
Vitamin C is key for bone growth and repair, which includes keeping your teeth strong. Taking a pregnancy-suitable vitamin and calcium supplement should provide you with enough of these nutrients.
8. Avoid teeth-whitening kits and toothpastes
Teeth-whitening products like these contain peroxide, which may be harmful to your baby. There are no studies currently documenting any harm caused to the foetus, but pregnancy is such a crucial time for the development of a baby that many dentists advise against teeth whitening while you're expecting.
9. Taking antibiotics? Tell your GP you're pregnant
Antibiotics are important if your GP thinks you have an infection, but some – tetracyclines such as doxycycline and minocycline – can discolour a developing baby's teeth. If in doubt, don't stop taking any medication but do call your GP's surgery to check.
10. Skip dental treatments in your first trimester
When making an appointment to see your dentist, make sure you let them know you're pregnant and when you're due. In the first trimester and second half of your third trimester, check-ups are fine but treatments should be avoided, as a precaution. Also, advances in technology mean that these days, X-rays are much safer than they used to be, but it is still advisable to avoid exposure to radiation if possible. If an X-rays is essential (eg in an emergency), your dentist will use extreme caution to keep you and your baby safe.