While a mom-to-be has much on the mind, one of the things not always at the top of the list is oral health. However, there are lots of reasons why good oral health is important, especially during pregnancy.
The first reason is that hormonal changes occur during pregnancy that can cause gums to become swollen, inflamed and bleed more easily. It is important to gently brush around the gums during pregnancy to avoid pregnancy gingivitis. Having regular dental cleanings during pregnancy can reduce or eliminate the effects of these hormonal changes on gums.
The second reason is that nausea and vomiting during pregnancy cause stomach acid to stay on teeth which can cause erosion and decay. Nausea and vomiting (or alternatively, pregnancy cravings) can also result in a change of diet for pregnant women who may eat more starchy carbs and/or sugary foods. Such a change in diet increases the likelihood of cavities during pregnancy especially if brushing of teeth is avoided as a result of nausea. The dentist can provide strategies to protect teeth during pregnancy e.g. while regular brushing is recommended, brushing immediately following vomiting is ill advised because it will accelerate the damage to the teeth. Rinse with water or mouthwash immediately after vomiting and save brushing for later.
There is some research that suggests that pregnant women with periodontal disease may have a greater likelihood of delivering a pre-term baby or a baby with a lower birth weight. Some studies have also tied periodontal disease to health problems for women including diabetes and heart disease.
The important message is not to delay necessary dental care. This means addressing known dental problems prior to becoming pregnant if possible when it is safest to take x-rays, medications and undergo dental procedures. It is also recommended to see a dentist during pregnancy to have oral health assessed early on so that hopefully dental treatment during pregnancy e.g due to cavity or infection or periodontal disease will be unnecessary. Once pregnant, a dentist will likely only perform a dental procedure on a mother if it is absolutely necessary. This is why preventative care during pregnancy is so important.