Teeth in pregnancy: possible problems and advice
Pregnancy is an extraordinary time in a woman's life. Everything changes, daily rhythms, nutrition, perception of things and even the body is affected by absolutely natural physiological changes that affect the health of the expectant mother and that of the baby she is carrying. And of course the health of the teeth is not excluded!
The period from conception to 2 years of age of the child is in fact the phase in which the foundations are created for the good health of the child's teeth not only for his entire growth period but also for his future life as an adult.
It is therefore very important to implement behaviors and practices to prevent the risks of some of the diseases including carious disease, one of the most subtle, whose first source of infection is precisely the mother-child transmission.
What are the dental problems that can arise during pregnancy? And what precautions to take and good practices to avoid dental problems during pregnancy ? Here are some useful tips for expectant mothers!
Before pregnancy: prevention for the teeth
Implementing a good prevention plan is important starting even before pregnancy, even before conception, by adopting a healthy lifestyle. In particular, you can put these tips into practice:
- Always have a varied diet and possibly supplemented with vitamins and mineral salts
- Maintain a normal body weight and a daily habit of at least a minimum of physical activity .
- Obviously, the suspension and abstention from smoking is certainly recommended, as well as the limitation of alcohol intake and the abuse of exciting drinks such as coffee and tea.
Furthermore, before planning a pregnancy it is important to carry out periodic checks and any dental treatments which could instead be discouraged for various reasons while you are pregnant.
These are the excellent starting conditions to ensure that you then face the 9 months of gestation in good physical shape and at the same time protect your baby from possible health problems.
During pregnancy: Physiological changes and possible oral health problems
As mentioned during pregnancy your body is affected by several physiological changes. But what are they in particular and how do they affect the health of your and your baby's oral cavity? We find out in the next paragraphs of the article dedicated to the changes in your body during pregnancy, how these could affect your health and possible oral cavity diseases that you could pass on to your baby.
The physiological changes
During pregnancy your body undergoes many changes mainly driven by hormones including estradiol and progesterone which increase in quantity in the blood and act not only on the uterine mucous membranes and on the muscle fibers intended to receive the fetus, but also affect the oral mucous membranes .
First of all, hormonal variations can act on the gums which are more vascular and slightly swollen than normal.
This can accentuate and aggravate the annoyances of some previous unresolved situations such as malocclusions, possible overflowing fillings or poorly positioned prostheses and implants.
Increased sugar intake
When you are pregnant you tend to eat foods rich in sugars more frequently, unfortunately harmful to the hard tissues of the teeth as they expose them to continuous acid attacks on the surface which, by affecting the enamel, can evolve in the worst case into a carious lesion.
Saliva also changes in terms of quantity , and if a greater salivation has a certain protective function because it promotes self-cleansing of the oral cavity and neutralizes the acidity by raising the PH levels, it is also true that a constant high level of alkaline PH helps the bacterial plaque to solidify causing the formation of tartar over time. Other variations in terms of quality involve the more dense and viscous aspect of the saliva itself which thus facilitates the bacteria to adhere better to the tooth surface .
All this happens in a particular moment of a woman's life in which the immune defenses are lower and everything contributes to the creation of an environment conducive to the possible development of inflammatory pathologies.
Oral problems in pregnancy
It is important to consider that all the acute painful conditions and the infectious ones of the oral cavity if neglected over time represent a danger for the expectant mother and for the unborn child and if you do not undergo an examination and evaluation by the dentist who can help suggest a cure, infections can spread in the blood and can also reach the genitourinary system and affect the amniotic membrane with risks for the fetus. In recent decades there have been several studies that have correlated periodontal disease in pregnant women and the complications that can arise from it , including pre-term birth before the 37th week of gestation with a newborn weighing less than 2500 g.
Carious disease is among the diseases apparently and erroneously considered less serious, but in reality dental caries is an infectious and transmissible process that causes a progressive destruction of the hard tissues that make up the teeth.
- a cariogenic oral bacterial flora
- the amount and frequency of carbohydrate intake in the diet
- an individual subjectivity given by the quantity and composition of one's saliva and the structural characteristics of one's teeth
- poor or poorly maintained oral hygiene
But how does caries form? In the oral cavity there are numerous microorganisms on a physiological level, actually billions of microbes, which live in balance with each other but when for some reason something changes within the body, bacterial proliferation increases with the consequent formation of dental plaque , an accumulation of bacteria that forms on the teeth and under the gums. Underestimating it is equivalent to considerably increasing the risk of caries formation.
Among the main bacteria responsible for tooth decay is Streptococcus Mutans , which can produce a water-insoluble adhesive substance from the carbohydrates we eat during meals, a biofilm that adheres to the walls of the teeth. This situation attracts other microorganisms by creating colonies of bacteria inside the mouth which feed on sugars and produce acid waste capable of attacking and corroding the dental enamel which protects the dentin and the pulp of the tooth.
The most important aspect that you shouldn't underestimate is that Streptococcus mutans is transmissible to the newborn during its first 24 months of life ; the first source of contagion is the mother through her saliva with direct contact through kisses or indirect contact with the common use of cutlery, or worse contamination of teats and pacifiers.
In this regard, a piece of advice is to avoid putting the pacifier in the mouth before giving it to the child with the intention of "cleaning" or "disinfecting" it if it falls to the ground, for example... or taste it directly from the baby's spoon if the food is too hot.
All the people who take care of the child in his first 2 years can be potential carriers of the caries bacterium even if it is true that in order to cause the implantation and colonization of Streptococcus mutans in his mouth, several saliva transmissions are required, a simultaneous supply of sugars and a lack of correct oral hygiene of the child after each meal starting from the first months of life.
Tips to avoid dental disease in pregnancy
“Prevention is better than cure” goes a famous popular saying. Indeed, prevention remains the best ally to counteract the onset of many oral diseases both for the pregnant woman and for the fetus that is growing inside her. Furthermore, it is the easiest method if you prepare yourself right away.
During pregnancy, in the absence of problems, it is therefore advisable to have an oral hygiene session with the dentist from the beginning of pregnancy or every three months up to 3 months after delivery. If, on the other hand, you need special care, it is always better to hear the opinion of the gynecologist.
In addition, here are some tips that you as a future mother can implement in your daily routine to take good care of oral hygiene during pregnancy:
- brush your teeth at least 2 times a day but better 3 times, after main meals
- use a toothbrush with soft bristles in case there is irritation from inflamed gums
- use dental floss once a day
- use a chlorhexidine-based mouthwash
- if you are in the first trimester of pregnancy and experience vomiting, rinse your mouth with a high concentration fluoride mouthwash to protect the demineralisation of your teeth
- if you are used to chewing gum, prefer those with xylitol to inhibit bacterial growth
- avoid foods with a high concentration of sugars or foods rich in sugars that stay in the mouth for a long time if you can't brush your teeth afterwards
Ultimately, a good oral health prevention plan for the pregnant woman which includes, in addition to correct daily oral hygiene, periodic visits to the dentist and a balanced food plan established with the gynecologist are an excellent way to reduce the risk of oral cavity problems.
With these assumptions, every future mother can really make a difference to her health and at the same time create the best foundations to ensure her child grows up with strong and healthy teeth.