Oral Healthcare During Pregnancy
A balanced diet is critical for the proper development of an unborn child. Teeth begin to form in a fetus during the second month of pregnancy and calcify between the third to sixth months of pregnancy. A balanced diet that provided adequate amounts of vitamins A, C and D, protein, calcium and phosphorous helps develop healthy teeth. Inadequate nutrition, on the other hand, may result in poorly-formed tooth enamel that may make a child more likely to develop cavities once the primary teeth have erupted.
A mother’s decay-causing bacteria can be transmitted to her child, so it is important to have maternal teeth free of decay before the child’s birth. Pregnant women may have the desire to eat more frequently between meals. While this is normal, frequent snacking can be an invitation for tooth decay. The decay process begins with plaque, an invisible, sticky layer of harmful bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. The bacteria convert sugars and starches that remain in the mouth to an acid that attacks the tooth’s protective outer enamel. Brushing your teeth a minimum of twice daily and cleaning between the teeth daily with floss or another interdental cleaner can reduce the risk of dental decay.
Plaque that is not removed can irritate the gums, making them red, tender, and likely to bleed easily. This condition is called gingivitis and can lead to a more serious problem known as periodontal disease that affects the gums and bone that anchors the teeth in place. During pregnancy, a woman’s hormone levels rise considerably. Gingivitis, especially common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy, may cause red, puffy and tender gums that tend to bleed when brushed. This sensitivity is an exaggerated response to plaque and is caused by an increased level of progesterone. Poor periodontal health in an expecting mother may lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes like premature delivery and low birth weight of the baby. Mothers should see a dentist regularly throughout pregnancy. The dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings during the second trimester to help avoid such problems.