In this blog post about the importance of dental care during and after pregnancy, Dr. Summer Holloway teamed up with Reno OBGYN, Dr. Rafaela Hernandez to bring you complete information on this critical topic for expectant mothers.
Pregnancy and Oral Health
You’ve taken your prenatal vitamins, gotten all your blood work, and been diligent with your OB doctor visits, but have you added “visit the dentist” to your list of care while you’re pregnant? Many people do not know how much your dental health affects your overall health, and the health of your baby.
Regular Cleanings and Dental Work in Pregnancy
The most serious dental risk to pregnant women is plaque. That’s right, plaque. The bacteria in plaque that sits on your teeth can cause inflammation. As Reno OBGYN, Dr. Rafaela Hernandez explains, “Inflammation is one of the leading causes of preterm labor. Women do not realize that plaque buildup causes inflammation in the mouth and gums. This inflammation may increase the risk of preterm labor.”
She also recommends that women absolutely schedule and keep their regular six-month cleaning appointments while pregnant. Dr. Hernandez says, “Regular cleanings and maintaining overall dental health are simple ways to help mom and baby stay healthy during pregnancy and the newborn period.”
Reno dentist, Dr. Summer Holloway also agrees. “When I have a patient who is pregnant, we always work with them to schedule routine cleanings,” she says. “Additionally, I check for any swollen or inflamed gums on every visit. This is often referred to as ‘pregnancy gingivitis’ and increases the risk of preterm labor if not treated.”
Many pregnant women do suffer from “pregnancy gingivitis” which makes the gums swollen and susceptible to bleeding. These symptoms can appear as early as the first trimester, so it is very important to watch your mouth and make an appointment for dental treatment if you experience any of these symptoms while pregnant.
Contrary to normal plaque buildup that can be a result of poor dental hygiene, pregnancy gingivitis is caused by an increase in hormones that exaggerate the way gums react to the normal plaque buildup.
“It’s the plaque, and not your hormone levels, that can lead to gum disease in pregnancy,” Dr. Holloway explains.
Research suggests that the bacteria that causes inflammation in the gums and periodontal disease can actually get into the bloodstream and target the growing fetus, potentially leading to low birth-weight babies, in addition to being a leading cause of preterm labor.
“We could save so much time and resources if pregnant women made sure to take care of their teeth during pregnancy,” Dr. Hernandez stated.
To combat gum disease in pregnancy, Dr. Holloway performs oral exams at all dental treatment and hygiene appointments to check the health of your teeth and if there are any signs of pregnancy gingivitis. She will also check to ensure that you do not have any cavities in your mouth prior to delivering your baby. By mitigating any oral issues prior to the birth, you are giving your baby a fighting chance to prevent decay through decreasing bad bacteria transfer.
If you do find yourself in need of a filling or other dental treatment such as a root canal while pregnant, Dr. Holloway recommends that you get treatment in the second trimester, unless it is an emergency, because it is the safest for the baby. If you do need dental work outside of normal cleanings in the first or third trimester, she recommends you consult your OBGYN to determine level of risk for mom and baby.
“I have patients who sometimes need major dental treatment work done when they are pregnant,” Dr. Hernandez said. “Unless it is a high-risk case or they are early or late in pregnancy, I encourage my patients not to wait. Sometime I prescribe an antibiotic depending on the procedure and their risk levels for infection.”
Dr. Holloway says that often her patients are worried about local anesthetic, however the numbing agents are exclusive to the area in the mouth where the treatment is needed and pose little to no risk to the fetus. However she stresses that the second trimester is the safest window to have any major dental work unless it is an emergency.
Diet and Development of Baby's Teeth
Your mouth is the gateway to your body, and as such has direct influence over your blood and major organs. Most specifically, the food you eat in pregnancy can affect the health of your baby’s developing teeth, which begin forming between the third and sixth month of pregnancy.
The best foods to ingest during this time of development are healthy and lean proteins and plenty of green, leafy veggies with vitamins A, C, and D. Lastly foods with calcium will also aid in proper development.
If you are suffering from the dreaded morning sickness, it is very important not to grab your toothbrush immediately following one of those unpleasant episodes.
“Contrary to popular belief, brushing your teeth directly after you vomit is one of the worse things you can do for your teeth,” Dr. Holloway says.
Once your teeth are exposed to stomach acid, they are porous and weak for a short time. By applying your toothbrush bristles to your teeth, they can actually put small scratched in the enamel and further break down your tooth structure. To help avoid this, rinse with baking soda and water for about 30 seconds. This will neutralize the pH in your mouth and help your teeth not be so susceptible to break down.
Caring for your Teeth Post Delivery
You also need to consider your oral health following the birth of your baby. Babies are born without any bacteria in their mouths. Bacteria is often transferred from the parents and loved ones through kissing, testing milk/food temperatures, etc.. There are many forms of bacteria in our mouths, both good and bad. Some are good and help to fight against bacteria that cause harm, while others contribute to decay and periodontal disease.
By visiting the dentist for routine hygiene visits during and after your pregnancy, your hygienist reduces the number of bacteria in your mouth and thus helps to minimize the transfer of periodontal disease-causing bacteria.
Make Your Dental Appointment, Moms!
Now that you know the importance of dental care during pregnancy, make sure to schedule your appointment for regular cleanings and to be conscious of any early warning signs in your mouth. Also, keep your OBGYN and your dentist connected on your care if there are any risk factors. It could make the difference for a health and full-term pregnancy.
Dr. Hernandez has been practicing obstetrics and gynecology in the Reno area for 13 years. She attended medical school at the University of Nevada Reno School of Medicine and completed her residency at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Dr. Hernandez has brought hundreds of babies into this world and was the proud recipient of the Patient’s Choice Award six years in a row. For more on her or her practice, visit https://www.renowomenshealth.com/.