Pregnancy is a time of great joy and anticipation for expecting parents as you prepare to bring a new life into the world. During this crucial period, maintaining good health becomes paramount, not just for the pregnant parent, but also for the developing baby.
While regular prenatal check-ups are typically prioritized, many pregnant people overlook the importance of dental care during pregnancy. I want to shed light on the significance of visiting the dentist while pregnant and how it can contribute to a healthy pregnancy and a happy, healthy baby!
The Link Between Oral Health and Pregnancy
Hormonal Changes: Pregnancy is marked by significant hormonal changes that can lead to various oral health issues including pregnancy gingivitis (swollen, inflamed gums.)
Gum Disease and Preterm Birth: If untreated, gingivitis can worsen and ultimately lead to tooth loss and bone loss in the jaw. Gum disease in the pregnant parent has also been associated with pre-term labor and low birthweight outcomes1. The connection between gum disease and poor birth outcomes underscores the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene and visiting the dentist during pregnancy
Morning Sickness: Morning sickness is a common pregnancy symptom. Frequent vomiting can expose your teeth to stomach acids, which can erode enamel and make the tooth more vulnerable to developing cavities. Cravings for sweets during pregnancy can increase consumption of cavity-promoting sugary foods and drinks
Why Dental Care During Pregnancy is Essential
Preventing and Treating Oral Health Issues: Regular dental check-ups and cleanings can help detect and address oral health problems early on. This can prevent minor issues from becoming major ones, reducing the risk of complications during pregnancy. According to dental and medical experts, X-rays, cleanings, and dental treatment is SAFE during any trimester and recommended during pregnancy!
Relieving Pregnancy Gingivitis and Improving Birth Outcomes: Pregnancy gingivitis, characterized by swollen, bleeding gums, can be uncomfortable and painful. Dental cleanings by a dentist or dental hygienist can help manage gum disease leading to better health for the parent and better birth outcomes
Minimizing the Risk of Tooth Decay and Transferring Cavities to the Baby:
The increased acidity in the mouth due to morning sickness makes pregnant women more susceptible to tooth decay. Dentists can recommend strategies to protect the teeth and minimize this risk as well as treat any cavities that need to be addressed.
Cavities are infectious and can be transferred from the parent to the baby once it’s born. Treating them in the pregnant parent can reduce the risk of transferring the cavities to the baby.
Enhancing Overall Well-Being: Oral health is closely linked to general health. Poor oral health is associated with conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, which can negatively impact both the parent and baby during pregnancy. By maintaining good oral health, we can reduce the risk of complications.
Dental Health Tips Before, During, and After Pregnancy:
Schedule a checkup with a dentist early in your pregnancy! If you have Medi-Cal, you have dental coverage for exams, cleanings, fillings, and more!
Complete recommended the dental treatment while pregnant. It’s safe and important for you and the baby2!
Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss daily.
Eat a balanced, healthy diet (limit sugars, carbs, and acidic foods) to support both your oral health and your baby’s development.
Rinse your mouth with water or a fluoride mouthwash if you vomit from morning sickness (don’t brush right away; wait 30 minutes.)
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water to reduce the risk of dry mouth, which can contribute to tooth decay.
To minimize the risk of transferring cavity-causing bacteria, have separate eating utensils for you and baby and use a clean cloth to wipe off the pacifier.
Bring your baby to the dentist by the time they’re one or when they get their first tooth!
Dental care during pregnancy is not just a matter of maintaining a beautiful smile; it is a vital component of a healthy pregnancy. Prioritize your oral health to ensure your own well-being and to create a healthy environment for your growing baby. Your smile, and your baby, will thank you for it.
If you need help finding an affordable dentist and have Medi-Cal Insurance, visit smilecalifornia.org or call the Medi-Cal Dental program at 800.322.6384. For local low-cost dental clinics that accept Medi-Cal Dental and have a sliding-scale call Dientes Community Dental at 831.464.5409 / dientes.org or Salud Para La Gente at 831.728.0222 / splg.org. If you have private health insurance, ask your carrier if you have dental benefits or how to get them.
By DR. SEPIDEH TAGHVAEI VP OF OPERATIONS AT DIENTES AND CO-CHAIR OF ORAL HEALTH ACCESS SANTA CRUZ