Guest post by Dr. Maureen Piché, a dentist currently expecting her second child. Who better to talk about pregnancy and teeth?
I’m a dentist and I’m also pregnant with my second child. Now that my belly is showing I’m asked if it’s true that a woman loses a tooth for each child, and whether a growing baby really takes calcium from your teeth. My clients also tell me lots of stories, many about how after having children teeth have “fallen apart”. While a mother’s teeth aren’t a source of calcium for the growing little one there is an unfortunate and frankly scary relationship between pregnancy and teeth that are damaged or lost.
Here are some of the challenges pregnant women face in caring for their teeth, and some of my suggestions. These tips – along with keeping your regular appointments with your dentist – will help to keep you cavity free in pregnancy and beyond.
Pregnancy and Teeth During the First Trimester
Sick much? Most women are all too well aware of nausea and vomiting. This is one of the biggest challenges in terms of pregnancy and teeth in the first few months. This increase of acid in the mouth can soften the enamel on teeth and decay sets in. This may seem surprising but do not brush after vomiting. The abrasives in toothpaste will erode the softened enamel. You’re much better off drinking water and rinsing with a fluoridated mouth rinse. The nausea can make brushing and flossing very difficult. Using a brush with a small head with only a very small amount of paste and floss handles can help reduce the gagging sensation. Avoid eating candies to stave off the morning sickness and opt for sugar-free gums – the ones with xylitol or recaldent are especially good at keeping cavities away.
Here Comes the Second Trimester
In the second trimester the big issues in terms of pregnancy and teeth are changes to diet. It is not only what you eat but how often you eat that leads to tooth decay. Sticky sugary foods and carbohydrates are major culprits. Snack on cheese, nuts and seeds or other sources of protein and drink lots of water. I am 21 weeks along in my pregnancy as I write this and I have to admit I’m not following my own advice very well. Stocking the office with proper snack food has just gone on my “to do” list. Hormones are an issue for gum tissue making them puffy and bleed more as your body is super sensitive to plaque. Flossing is the only remedy here. ( I tape the spool to my TV remote as a reminder!)
Third Trimester: The Final Stretch
As you enter the final stretch, there are still some things to be aware of in terms of pregnancy and teeth. Toward the end of pregnancy many of us experience acid reflux, which is much like vomiting as far as your teeth are concerned. Try Tums, gum and lots of water. As you finish up your shopping for the little one, remember to pick up a tooth brush. You should wipe your baby’s mouth with a cloth or brush with water regularly even before the first tooth is cut.
All too often pregnant women are so focused on the pregnancy and new baby they neglect their own dental needs. They finally come in once the baby is ready for an appointment and dentists discover decay and other problems. Decay factors are passed from parents to children all the time. So, from one mom to the next, taking care of your mouth leads to a health mouth for your child. Baby teeth start forming at 14 weeks gestation and adult teeth at birth, so it’s never too early to start!
Visiting the Dentist
Having minor dental work, like tooth cleaning and feelings, is safe in pregnancy, but x-rays and antibiotics shouldn’t be taken unless absolutely necessary. Ideally every woman has two cleanings and an exam done while pregnant. This will give your dentist and hygienist the chance to identify any issues before they become real problems, and give you the chance to be proactive in your own care. That belly means you have lots to smile about, so keep your teeth looking their best!
Dr. Maureen Piché HB.Sc., D.M.D. is a dentist at Harmony Dental Studio in Richmond. She is a graduate of the University of British Columbia and a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentists. She’s also a wife and the mother of a 21 month old girl and a new addition due in January. Children under two are seen free in her clinic or by donation to Operation Smile.