Some women believe that poor oral health is to be expected during pregnancy, others prefer to skip a dentist’s review for fear that dental X-rays or local anaesthesia may harm their foetus.
However, Dr Adrian Ain Keui, a dental surgeon at Raffles Dental, urges, “Pregnant mothers are strongly recommended to have regular dental check-ups with routine scaling and polishing of the teeth to keep their gums healthy.”
Hormonal changes in pregnancy
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause more plaque (bacteria) to build up on your teeth, which increases the risk of gum inflammation. But that’s not all. The bacteria in the mother’s mouth can travel through the blood and amniotic fluid to her unborn child, causing pregnancy complications.
“In the first trimester, the foetus’ organs are still developing, hence minimal work should be done during this time.”
Research shows that women with poor oral hygiene also risk getting preeclampsia (a pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure) or delivering premature and underweight infants. These babies may develop complications like asthma, ear infections, birth abnormalities or behavioural difficulties. Preterm babies also have a higher risk of dying.
Dr Adrian advises that you visit your dentist if you develop swollen or bleeding gums, bad breath, mouth sores, lumps and other growths, to avoid the risk of infection. And postpone any cosmetic procedures, such as teeth whitening, till after baby is born, he notes.
Time it right
The second trimester is the ideal time for expectant mums to check in with their dentist. Dr Adrian says, “In the first trimester, the foetus’ organs are still developing, hence minimal work should be done during this time.”
For emergency procedures, like fillings, root canals and extractions, mums-to-be can seek treatment any time to reduce risk of infection, he adds.
If possible, hold off doing any non-emergency procedures in the third trimester, he advises. “Lying on your back for a long time can cause light-headedness. This is because your growing uterus cuts off blood supply to the inferior vena cava.”
And if you need to take dental X-rays, don’t worry, these produce very low levels of radiation, Dr Adrian assures. As a precaution, the dentist will cover the tummy with a lead apron. However, do inform your dentist how far along you are into your pregnancy before taking the X-rays.
If possible, complete any dental treatment before you conceive. As your pregnancy progresses, it may be difficult to continue doing certain complicated procedures.
4 types of pregnancy dental problems
1. Pregnancy gingivitis “Pregnancy gingivitis is gingival (gum) inflammation caused by hormonal changes,” Dr Adrian explains. Gingivitis, which occurs in the second trimester, can cause the gums to swell, bleed or be sore.
“Brush your teeth at least twice daily to keep the gums healthy. Floss at least once a day and use an antimicrobial mouthwash, too. Go for routine scaling during check-ups,” he advises.
Some 50 to 70 per cent of all pregnant women develop gingivitis but not many seek treatment for bleeding gums. Untreated gingivitis may lead to periodontitis, which causes swelling and infection in the gums and the surrounding bones.
2. Periodontal or gum disease (periodontitis) Caused by hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, this severe form of gum disease affects the tissues and bones. It causes the teeth to become loose and eventually fall out. Tenderness, redness or swollen gums are symptoms of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease increases levels of prostaglandin, a labour-inducing chemical. Periodontal disease also elevates C-reactive proteins (which is linked to heart disease).
The body’s inflammatory response is further amplified by the rising levels of these proteins, which increases the chance of preeclampsia in the mum-to-be and also low
“Those suffering from periodontal disease are more at risk of preeclampsia and delivering underweight or premature babies.”
3. Pregnancy tumours These growths ― also known as “pyogenic granuloma” and “pregnancy granuloma” ― are swollen lumps found near the upper gum line, says Dr Adrian.
“These are not cancerous or dangerous growths, but they can cause discomfort (make eating and speaking difficult) due to their size, or when they bleed and crust over,” he adds. If the condition worsens, you may need to remove them before you give birth.
Often linked to poor oral hygiene, viruses, hormones, trauma and malformed blood vessels, pregnancy tumours normally disappear after childbirth, Dr Adrian notes.
4. Cavities Pregnancy increases the risk of tooth decay and erosion. This is because some pregnant women tend to consume more carbohydrates, while others may develop a sweet tooth. All these create more acid build-up, which eats away the tooth enamel.
Morning sickness, a sensitive gag reflex, tender gums and fatigue can also affect a pregnant mum’s oral hygiene routine. This is why it’s important to stick to your daily routine to safeguard both you and your baby’s health.
Diet tips for better teeth during pregnancy
Dr Adrian Ain Keui, a dental surgeon at Raffles Dental, offers tips on maintaining a balanced diet, so tha tyou and bubba will have great teeth.
* Folic acid: 400 micrograms
* Iron: 27 milligrams (mg)
* Calcium: 1,000mg
3. Avoid crunching ice cubes as this can cause serious injuries to your teeth and gums. Try baby carrots or apple chunks instead. If you have a persistent ice-chewing habit (pagophagia), see your dentist. Craving and chewing ice are associated with iron deficiency anaemia.
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