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Get the facts about dental health and pregnancy

Posted on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Many moms-to-be receive advice from well-meaning friends and relatives. Yet there seem to be myths about taking care of teeth and gums — if dental health is even mentioned at all.

While pregnancy comes with many responsibilities, oral hygiene should be a top priority to ensure both mother and child are set up for healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

What to Expect

Hormonal changes can lead to an increased risk of gum disease (gingivitis) throughout pregnancy. Some women may develop “pregnancy tumors,” painless bumps on their gums, most often during their second trimester. In addition to flossing once daily and brushing twice daily, work closely with your dentist throughout pregnancy to flag issues before they become problematic.

“Delaying necessary treatment for dental problems could result in significant risk to you and your baby,” said Dr. Maria Lopez Howell, DDS, spokesperson for the American Dental Association (ADA). “It’s worth your time to visit the dentist even if you don’t think you have dental problems.”

According to national experts in women’s health, public health and dental health, a new consensus statement based on scientific evidence reaffirms that preventive oral care, including the use of dental X-rays, pain medication and local anesthesia for dental procedures, is safe throughout pregnancy.

“Don’t put dental care on the back burner, as the complications could far outweigh potential risks. Make it part of your health and wellness visits during pregnancy,” Dr. Howell said.

Post-pregnancy, maintaining good dental health habits are critical for everyone in the family. Evidence suggests that most infants and young children “catch” the germs that cause cavities from their parents or caregivers. Refrain from sharing utensils or attempting to “clean” a pacifier by putting it in your own mouth, as these types of activities may transfer cavity-causing germs.

Take Baby Steps to Better Dental Health

Together with the ADA, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center at Georgetown University (OHRC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), recommend following a few simple steps to help maintain a healthy mouth during pregnancy:

• Get dental health treatment, as recommended by your dentist, before delivery. Schedule an appointment with your dentist if your last dental visit was more than six months ago.  The use of dental X-rays, pain medication and local anesthesia for dental procedures is safe throughout pregnancy.

• If you experience “morning sickness,” rinse your mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water to prevent stomach acid from harming your teeth.

• Drink water throughout the day that contains the recommended amount of fluoride to help to keep you hydrated and prevent tooth decay.

Read The Central Virginian’s July 4 edition for the rest of this story.