Whether planning a pregnancy, entering the first trimester or rounding out the home stretch, it's important to consider oral hygiene as part of your prenatal and postnatal care. Scheduling a dental appointment early on can give you and your dentist time for a thorough cleaning, as well as for completing any necessary repairs before gingivitis or increased soreness begins.
Checking for signs of decay in teeth also is advisable to prevent any infections that could spread to the fetus. Setting appointments for routine checkups or extra cleanings during pregnancy and for after delivery helps set the calendar, giving space ahead of time for oral as well as physical care.
Brushing, flossing and getting regular professional cleanings remain the best daily preventatives to gingivitis, whether expecting or not, but increasing the frequency during pregnancy is usually recommended for several reasons. Two frequent realities of pregnancy are eating more and getting nauseous or having morning sickness. It is important to snack on healthy foods throughout pregnancy, but all of the extra nibbling gives plaque and bacteria extra opportunities to form on teeth and exacerbate gingivitis or sore gums. Adding extra flossing or brushing in addition to the usual post-meal or before bed sessions helps. Having frequent vomiting or even acid reflux and heartburn issues also affects teeth because acid from the digestive system makes its way into the mouth. Acid is particularly damaging to teeth, but it also aids in plaque formation, which irritates gums.
Dentists will have specific experiences with products and techniques for relieving gum pain in patients, and rinsing with salt water, increasing intake of certain vitamins and minerals, or adding new dental tools such as electric toothbrushes or rinses may be among the recommendations. Doctors also come alongside with dietary guidelines that work in the body and in turn, the blood, feeding tissues including those in the gums.
Staying vigilant from start to finish should include some extra brushing and flossing but with soft brushes and gentle motions so gums don't experience additional soreness or damage. If teeth and gums are extra-sensitive, switching to a toothpaste for sensitive teeth can help as well. And keeping up with dental care after delivery, even while caring for a newborn round-the-clock, is important [source: March of Dimes].
As those final weeks approach and you can no longer see your swollen feet beneath your swollen belly, with some extra care and attention, you may at least be able to avoid swollen gums.
More Great Links
- American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). "Protecting Oral Health Throughout Your Life." Perio.org. 2011. (Sept. 22, 2011) http://www.perio.org/consumer/women.htm
- American Dental Association (ADA). "Disease, Gum (Periodontal Disease)." 2011. (Sept. 22, 2011) http://ada.org/3063.aspx
- American Dental Association (ADA). "Pregnancy." ADA.org. 2011. (Sept. 23, 2011) http://www.ada.org/en/Home-MouthHealthy/~/link.aspx?_id=85F66A4BCFA644488A4E208418B0013E&_z=z
- March of Dimes. "Your Pregnant Body: Gum and Teeth Change." MarchofDimes.com. 2011. (Sept. 22, 2011) http://www.marchofdimes.com/yourbody_teeth.html
- Mehegan, Marian, ed. "Oral Health Fact Sheet." WomensHealth.gov. Nov. 17, 2010. (Sept. 22, 2011) http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/oral-health.cfm
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). "Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments. NIH.gov. April 2010. (Sept. 22, 2011) http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). "Gingivitis." NIH.gov. 2011. (Sept. 22, 2011) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001056.htm
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). "Gum Disease." NIH.gov. 2011. (Sept. 22, 2011) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/gumdisease.html