Pregnancy is a time in the life of a woman when the mind, body and emotions go through several changes. A fact that many women may not know is that during pregnancy there is an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Both can cause severe pain and even complications like premature birth. Here are some tips to prevent tooth and gum problems during pregnancy and immediately thereafter.
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Dentists rightly recommend regular dental check ups, at least twice a year. A routine cleaning appointment once every 6 months can be a valuable part of every person's health regimen. But rarely do dentists have such diligent patients. If you are planning for a baby however, then it is advisable that you see your dentist religiously every three months.
Prevention is always better than cure
Whether pregnant or no, proper oral hygiene measures are non-negotiable. Brushing twice daily, especially before bed-time, flossing regularly, and rinsing after every meal should be done daily.
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Why pregnant women are more prone to dental woes
Pregnancy means lot of additional hormones in the body and the usual body responses get altered. Additionally the mind and body tend to be under constant stress which may even reduce the capacity to bear pain.
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Pregnancy itself does not cause gum problems. But it exaggerates reaction to plaque (layer of bacteria on tooth surface) thus causing reddening, swelling and bleeding from gums while brushing. Sometimes a gum swelling occurs, called pregnancy epulis. It most commonly occurs during third trimester and often persists after delivery.
Gum inflammation if left untreated may progress and affect the bone that holds the teeth, and lead to loosening of teeth. This condition is called periodontitis and may even trigger premature birth. About 18% of premature births have periodontal disease to blame.
Tooth decay - again, pregnancy does not directly cause tooth decay. A pregnant woman may often experience sweet cravings thus increasing chances of tooth decay.
Morning sickness and retching can coat the tooth enamel with stomach acids making the tooth more susceptible to decay. Some women get vomiting sensation due to toothpaste and hence avoid brushing, compromising on dental hygiene.
Precautions and treatment during pregnancy
Brushing with a sugar-free toothpaste is recommended, twice daily. Floss regularly.
Flossing between the teeth
If gagging occurs during brushing, use a small headed brush that would not touch the tongue much. Also try changing toothpaste flavour.
After an episode of vomiting, just rinse your mouth well with tap water and if possible with a mouthwash. Do not brush immediately as the scrubbing after the acid attack will damage the enamel more.
If you need any dental treatment, plan it during the second trimester. Consult with your obstetrician before any dental procedure.
Always inform your dentist about your pregnancy. Radiographs are routinely taken in a dental clinic and if informed, your dentist will take necessary precautions to protect the foetus from radiation exposure.
In addition, many medicines are prohibited during pregnancy and the doctor will be able to prescribe accordingly.
Control sweet cravings by switching to healthier foods.
To strengthen your constitution and resistance to disease, ensure you take adequate nutritional supplementation leading up to conception, and during and after the pregnancy - consult a health professional for guidance.
It is quite easy to keep dental problems away during pregnancy if you follow a correct oral hygiene schedule. After all when the biggest happiness in your life is due, your pearly whites need to be intact!