Prenatal oral health matters—for mothers-to-be and babies alike. The mother’s mouth is the principal source of oxygen and nourishment for both, so it’s vital that an expectant mother maintain a healthy mouth. For some women who experience morning sickness, taste bud changes, or complications from high-risk pregnancies, for example, everyday oral hygiene may not be so easy. By addressing their special needs, dentists can actually help these women have healthier pregnancies.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), most expectant mothers should go to the dentist regularly during pregnancy. Dentists should always know beforehand about the current month and status of pregnant patients, about all medications and treatments, and especially about any complications. In some cases, it may be prudent to postpone a dental appointment until after birth.
Both mother and baby benefit from prenatal dental care. It’s especially beneficial to visit the dentist before getting pregnant, and during the second trimester. In fact, regular cleanings and checkups during pregnancy can prevent some potentially serious problems—particularly if gum disease is already a factor.
For example, increased estrogen and progesterone support blood circulation during pregnancy, but can also cause gums to swell and/or bleed. The discomfort can make some expectant mothers become lax about oral care. As a result, they may develop gingivitis, or worse, periodontitis that over time leads to bone loss. Specialized dentists can perform periodontal testing that examines for genetic disposition to gum disease, as well as for its presence.
Moreover, recent studies show that pregnant mothers who develop periodontal disease also run four to seven times greater risk of premature delivery. Pregnant women should still floss at least twice daily. If gums hurt or bleed, their experts recommend trying a softer toothbrush. The ADA also advises mothers-to-be to use only ADA-accepted, peroxide-free oral care products, to protect babies in utero from potential harm.