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P - Pregnancy (A to Z Challenge April 2014)

It's important for you to take good care of your teeth and gums while pregnant. Pregnancy causes hormonal changes that increase the risk of developing gum disease which, in turn, can affect the health of your developing baby. It's a myth that calcium is lost from a mother's teeth and "one tooth is lost with every pregnancy." But you may experience some changes in your oral health during pregnancy. If the mother’s intake of calcium is inadequate during pregnancy, her bones – not her teeth – will provide the calcium her growing baby needs. This calcium loss is quickly made up after breastfeeding is stopped.


Before You Get Pregnant
Try to make a dental appointment before getting pregnant. That way, your teeth can be professionally cleaned, gum tissue can be carefully examined, and any oral health problems can be treated in advance of your pregnancy. Research has found a link between gum disease in pregnant women and premature birth with low birth weight. Babies who are born prematurely may risk a range of health conditions including cerebral palsy and problems with eyesight and hearing. 

Common causes of dental health problems during pregnancy can include:
1.       Gum problems - The hormones associated with pregnancy can make some women susceptible to gum problems including gingivitis (gum inflammation) – this is more likely to occur during the second trimester and undiagnosed or untreated periodontal disease – pregnancy may worsen this chronic gum infection, which is caused by untreated gingivitis and can lead to tooth loss.

2.       Vomiting can damage teeth: Pregnancy hormones soften the ring of muscle that keeps food inside the stomach. Gastric reflux (regurgitating food or drink) or the vomiting associated with morning sickness can coat your teeth with strong stomach acids. Repeated reflux and vomiting can damage tooth enamel and increase the risk of decay. Suggestions include:
·         Don’t brush your teeth immediately after vomiting. 
·         Rinse your mouth thoroughly with plain tap water.
·         Follow up with a fluoridated mouthwash.
·         Brush your teeth at least an hour after vomiting. 

3.      Retching while brushing teeth:  Some pregnant women find that brushing their teeth, particularly the molars, provokes retching. However, you risk tooth decay if you don’t brush regularly. Suggestions include:
·         Use a brush with a small head, such as a brush made for toddlers.
·         Take your time. Slow down your brushing action.
·         It may help to close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing.
·         Try other distractions, such as listening to music.
·         If the taste of the toothpaste seems to provoke your gag reflex, switch to another brand. Alternatively, brush your teeth with water and follow up with a fluoridated mouthwash. Go back to brushing with fluoridated toothpaste as soon as you can.

4.    Food cravings while pregnant: Some women experience unusual food cravings (and food avoidance) while they are pregnant. A regular desire for sugary snacks may increase your risk of tooth decay. Try to snack on low-sugar foods instead.

5.    Increase your calcium during pregnancy: You need to increase your daily amount of calcium during pregnancy. Sufficient calcium will protect your bone mass and meet the nutritional needs of your developing baby.

6.    Increase your vitamin D during pregnancy: Vitamin D helps the body to utilize calcium.

Are there any dental procedures I should avoid?
Non-emergency procedures generally can be performed throughout pregnancy, but the best time for any dental treatment is the fourth through six month. Women with dental emergencies that create severe pain can be treated during any trimester, but your obstetrician should be consulted during emergencies that require anesthesia or when medication is being prescribed. Only X-rays that are needed for emergencies should be taken during pregnancy. Lastly, elective procedures that can be postponed should be delayed until after the baby's birth.

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