When you’re a mom-to-be, you do everything you can to make things perfect for your little one. That obviously includes eating healthy and exercising. But did you know oral care care during pregnancy is one of the best ways to ensure the health of you and your baby?
Everything in your body is connected. When you take care of your teeth and gums, you take care of your whole self. That’s doubly true during pregnancy—literally. You’re taking care of two people, after all.
So, what’s the link between oral care and prenatal care? Read on to learn how pregnancy affects your dental health and how you can protect yourself and your little one during those crucial nine months—and beyond.
3 Reasons to Prioritize Oral Care During Pregnancy
Your body undergoes all sorts of changes when you’re expecting, and your teeth and gums are no exceptions. Pregnant women are prone to many oral health risks since the body is working overtime. Accordingly, it’s important to stay on top of your dental hygiene habits—here’s why.
1. Pregnancy Gingivitis Can Harm Your Baby
Your body produces higher levels of two hormones during pregnancy: estrogen and progesterone. These hormonal changes can trigger pregnancy gingivitis: a gum disease that causes inflammation, swelling, and bleeding of your gingiva (the tissue around the base of your teeth).
Up to 75% of pregnant women experience pregnancy gingivitis, according to the CDC. It typically starts around the second month and peaks during the eighth month.
Left untreated, pregnancy gingivitis may lead to periodontitis, a more serious gum disease that makes you susceptible to severe infections and even tooth loss.
Periodontitis poses a big threat to unborn babies too: research shows that periodontitis is strongly linked to premature birth and low birth weight. This is most likely because bacteria from the gums trigger the production of prostaglandins. When these chemicals enter the bloodstream, they can affect the fetus.
2. Avoid Tooth Sensitivity During Pregnancy
Tooth sensitivity is very common during pregnancy, even if you’ve never experienced it before. The main culprits for tooth pain during pregnancy are nausea and vomiting (AKA morning sickness) which around 70% of pregnant women experience.
When you throw up, stomach acid coats your mouth. This acidic environment erodes tooth enamel (the thin outer covering). When your enamel wears down, your teeth become sensitive and more prone to cavities.
3. You Can Prevent Pregnancy Tumors
In rare cases, women can develop red lumps along the upper gum line during their second trimester. These are known as pregnancy tumors, or pyogenic granuloma.
Don’t let the word “tumor” scare you—pregnancy tumors aren’t cancerous and can’t spread. They’re simply an inflammatory reaction that coincides with gingivitis. The best way to prevent pregnancy tumors is to stay ahead of plaque buildup (more on that next).
3 Oral Care Tips for Pregnant Women
Dental health during pregnancy boils down to two principles: minimizing bad bacteria and maximizing essential nutrients. Follow these tips to ensure all your bases are covered.
1. Brush Your Teeth After Every Meal
It’s no secret that pregnancy is exhausting, and that can throw off your daily brushing routine. Forgetting to brush once in a while might seem trivial, but this gives bacteria a chance to build up in your mouth and spread throughout your body.
Not to mention you’ll probably snack more while you’re pregnant, so it’s important to prevent food particles from sticking to your teeth. Aim to brush at least twice a day, and ideally after every meal to prevent bacteria buildup.
Remember, you’re brushing for two—not just you.
2. Increase Your Vitamin Intake
Vitamins lay the foundation for your oral health (and overall health). But keep in mind your growing baby needs nutrients too, which is why you can benefit from supplements to avoid vitamin deficiencies.
Here are some vitamins you should pay close attention to during pregnancy:
Vitamin D: Your body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorus—the dynamic duo that keeps your teeth strong. Vitamin D also fights off diseases, boosts your mood, and may reduce your risk of preeclampsia (a serious blood pressure condition that happens during pregnancy).
Pregnant women need 15 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D per day. However, that’s easier said than done. According to a 2020 study, nearly half of adults are vitamin D deficient. Plus, the American Pregnancy Association points out that most prenatal vitamins don’t supply enough vitamin D.
The good news is you can easily supplement your vitamin D intake with a microdose every time you brush your teeth. Our Energy Toothpaste contains 80% of your daily dose of vitamin D3 (assuming you brush twice daily).
Vitamin B12: Low levels of vitamin B12 during pregnancy have been linked to gum disease as well as neural birth defects. Specifically, a 2009 study found that B12 deficient women were five times more likely to have a child with a neural tube defect.
Pregnant women need at least 2.6 mcg of B12 per day and Mayo Clinic recommends supplementation. However, pills and capsules can upset your stomach, not to mention they aren’t absorbed efficiently.
The solution is sublingual B12, which is absorbed through the capillaries in your mouth. An easy way to get sublingual B12 is through vitamin-infused toothpaste.
Vitamin A: Hormone shifts during pregnancy can decrease saliva production, which increases the risk of gum disease. Vitamin A plays a key role in saliva production, so make sure you get the recommended daily amount, which is 770 mcg for pregnant women.
Vitamin C: This antioxidant is known for boosting your immune system, but it also strengthens your gums and protects against gingivitis. The National Institutes of Health recommends pregnant women get 85 mg of Vitamin C daily.
3. Floss Every Day
Flossing your teeth is an easy and effective way to prevent gum disease, which poses big problems during pregnancy (as we explained above). Bacteria from leftover food particles turn into plaque on your teeth, which can be hard to remove by brushing alone—especially in hard-to-reach places.
Untreated plaque can harden into tartar around the gum line and cause periodontal disease, tooth decay, and receding gums.
Can You Go to the Dentist During Pregnancy?
Some women wonder if it’s safe to visit the dentist during pregnancy—the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, dental checkups are even more important when you’re pregnant since your dentist can spot any potential issues that might otherwise fly under the radar.
Tell your dentist you’re pregnant as early as possible and ask if they have any special recommendations based on your medical history. Also, be sure to go in for a routine cleaning/check-up during your second trimester.
Stick to Your Oral Hygiene Habits After Your Baby Is Born
We covered a lot about dental health during pregnancy, but it’s important after pregnancy too.
For starters, you don’t want to pass oral bacteria to your baby—staying on top of your brushing and flossing routine is the first step in protecting your little one.
You’ll also need a surplus of vitamins and other micronutrients if you’re breastfeeding (especially calcium, folic acid, and vitamin D). It can be tough to meet your nutritional goals from food alone, but supplements like vitamin-infused toothpaste can fill the gaps—and give you a much-needed energy boost too.
Remember, small habits make big changes when it comes to the health of you and your baby.