Tips for taking control of your oral health during pregnancy

Maintaining optimal oral health is important in all stages of life, but it’s even more important when a woman becomes pregnant. Pregnant women can experience negative, and often unexpected, changes in their oral health that have long-term repercussions.

These can include an increase in cavities due to frequent snacking; heightened gum sensitivity and bleeding exacerbated by an increase in hormones; and, if a woman experiences intense nausea and vomiting, potential erosion of the teeth due to gastric acid.

“The first thing you should do when you find out that you’re pregnant is to schedule a comprehensive dental exam during your first trimester,” says Dr. Salina Massei, a part-time faculty member in the Section of Pediatric Dentistry at the UCLA School of Dentistry. “This appointment should consist of assessing a woman for dental disease and providing prenatal oral health counseling.”

Massei provides these additional tips for taking control of your oral health during pregnancy.

Have any necessary X-rays and other types of major dental treatment, such as elective restorative and periodontal dental procedures, during the second trimester. Not to worry, she says: Radiographs are safe during pregnancy if appropriate radiation safety principles are followed, such as the position of the patient to prevent a drop in the mother’s blood pressure and also avoiding a lengthy appointment.

Nitrous oxide may impose risks in pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Use of the gas in the first trimester has been linked to a potential risk of spontaneous abortions from neonatal respiratory depression, she says, adding that pregnant women should consult their prenatal care provider prior to nitrous oxide administration.

Take care of your own oral health in order to protect your baby’s oral health.

“One thing that is especially important for pregnant women to understand is that their cavity-causing oral bacteria can be transmitted to their infant,” emphasizes Massei. “This transmission occurs from saliva-sharing behaviors such as sharing utensils, cleaning a dropped pacifier or toy with their mouth.”

Mothers can reduce their cavity-causing bacteria levels and minimize the transmission to their child by taking care of their own oral health and treating any existing dental decay during gestation.

For additional information on maintaining oral health during pregnancy, please consult the California Dental Association website, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry guidelines, the American Dental Association website and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website.

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