If you’re pregnant, then you are no stranger to doctors’ appointments. Most pregnant women have between 10 and 15 prenatal visits. But are you including dental visits in your health routine? If you’re not, you should be.
When you’re pregnant, you have enough to think about between what you should and shouldn’t be eating and the mood swings you might be experiencing. (Don’t worry, they’re normal!) But it’s especially important to think about your personal health while pregnant – and that includes those pearly whites. We sat down with Brandi Dupont, DMD, chief dental officer, Community Health Alliance (CHA), for a Q&A about pregnancy and dental health.
CHA has partnered with Renown’s Pregnancy Center. What does this mean for our community?
CHA’s vision is to deliver compassionate, high-quality, affordable healthcare; serve and advocate for those who are poor and disenfranchised; and partner with others in the communities we serve to improve the quality of life. By partnering with community programs like The Pregnancy Center, we further our mission and promote our vision to serving those in our community.
Why is dental health important for pregnant women?
Dental health is important for pregnant women for a multitude of reasons, but three reasons in particular really stand out:
- Physiological changes during pregnancy can make a woman’s gums sore or puffy and make them bleed (a condition known as gingivitis). If gingivitis is not treated, it may lead to a more serious disease called periodontal disease, which can lead to tooth loss.
- Morning sickness can lead to acid erosion of the surfaces of the teeth causing sensitivity and increased risk of cavities or worsening of existing cavities.
- Cavities are “catching,” in that we get the types of bacteria in our mouth from our moms, dads and other caregivers, such as grandparents, after we are born. If mom has untreated cavities and/or gum disease due to high levels of pathogenic bacteria in her mouth, she will infect her baby with the same bacteria after birth. If mom has good oral health care, it will reduce the risk of early childhood caries (ECC) for her baby.
Are cavities really contagious?
Germs can pass from mom’s mouth to baby’s mouth.
- Parents and caregivers should not test a bottle with their mouth to see if it’s too hot.
- Parents and caregivers should use a different spoon to taste their baby’s food.
- If the baby’s bottle nipple or pacifier falls on the floor, parents and caregivers should clean it with water.
Are dental cleanings, procedures, etc., safe during an entire pregnancy?
Yes, oral health care, including use of x-rays, pain medication and local anesthesia, is safe throughout pregnancy. Make sure you inform your dentist that you are pregnant so they can work with you to determine the safest and most appropriate course of treatment. The dentist can work together with mom to develop an individualized treatment and prevention plan designed for her oral health needs during and after pregnancy.
Does dental health continue to be important for mom after birth?
Absolutely. Good oral health before and after pregnancy are important for mom and for baby. After the baby is born, mom needs to:
- Brush twice a day with toothpaste
- Floss once daily
- Eat healthy foods
- Reduce consumption of sugary foods and beverages
- Get regular dental care
When mom’s mouth is healthy, it is more likely that baby’s mouth will be healthy, too. When mom has healthy habits, her children will have healthy habits too.
What else do you want people to know?
- It is important for moms to give their babies a healthy start. Children need healthy teeth and baby teeth are important. Healthy baby teeth help children chew and learn to speak clearly. Baby teeth also make space for adult teeth.
- Babies need to have their teeth brushed by their parents, and before they have teeth, their parents should clean their gums. Children need help brushing their teeth up until around age 9 or 10. When children have the dexterity to write in cursive, then they have the dexterity to brush their teeth on their own.
- Babies should have their first dental appointment by age 1. It is important so the dentist can diagnose early cavities, the child can get exposure to having dental visits and important oral health education can be provided.
- Sugary foods and drinks contribute to cavities. Moms and caregivers should not dip pacifiers in sweet foods like sugar, honey or syrup. Moms and their children should avoid any sugary drinks like fruit juices and sodas as these contribute to cavities. The best drink for children is water. Avoid giving babies sweets like candy, cookies or cakes.
Babies should never be put to bed with milk in their bottles. Milk has natural sugars, which if allowed to bathe the teeth all night, can cause ECC.