During pregnancy, hormonal changes can make your gums more easily irritated and inflamed. If you develop red, puffy or tender gums that bleed when you brush, you may be experiencing an exaggerated response to plaque that builds up on your teeth.
It is important to care for your teeth and gums before pregnancy. There is a proven link between gum (periodontal) disease in pregnant women and premature birth with low birth weight, which can put your baby at risk of a number of health conditions. Research shows up to 18 out of every 100 premature births may be triggered by periodontal disease.
Brush your teeth along the gum line twice a day with a small, soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
It’s also a good idea to visit your dentist before you become pregnant. Dental treatment before pregnancy can help to keep your teeth and gums healthy and reduce the risk of premature birth.
It may also be more comfortable for you to have any dental treatment before pregnancy. You may have morning sickness or become tired as your pregnancy progresses.
It’s important (and safe) to see your dentist while you are pregnant. Your dental health has a big impact on your overall health which has a major influence on the health of your baby, so it’s important that you maintain a good dental health routine throughout your pregnancy.
If you are pregnant or suspect that you are, tell the dental service when you make the appointment. Ask your dentist to check your gums and tell you how to care for them. Dentists and doctors are careful in prescribing medicines to pregnant women. Some medicines such as tetracycline antibiotics can affect your baby’s developing teeth.
Most dental treatment is safe during pregnancy. If possible, dental x-rays should be avoided during pregnancy. If your dental professional considers it essential for you to have an x-ray, special care and protection will be taken.
If you need dental treatment during pregnancy, you may be more comfortable when lying back in the dental chair, with your right hip raised using a pillow or towel.
Looking after your teeth
Good dental hygiene is even more important during pregnancy. To avoid plaque build-up, thoroughly clean your teeth and gums twice a day. Brush in the morning after breakfast and last thing at night before going to sleep and floss once a day.
Some pregnant women find they gag while brushing their teeth. If brushing makes you feel sick, try using a soft small-headed toothbrush designed for children and brush later in the morning when you may not gag as much. Concentrate on your breathing as you clean your back teeth.
Brushing without toothpaste may help. Then smear fluoride toothpaste over your teeth after brushing and don’t rinse it off. Return to brushing with fluoride toothpaste as soon as possible.
For healthy teeth and gums during pregnancy, you should also:
- Drink plenty of tap water. The fluoride in tap water strengthens the teeth and helps to prevent decay — and neither fluoride in water nor in toothpaste will harm a developing baby. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you have any concerns.
- Avoid sugary drinks.
- Eat a wide variety of healthy foods.
- Eat at least 4 serves of calcium-rich food, such as milk and milk products. Calcium is very important for your baby’s teeth and bones. A 250mL glass of milk is one serve. You can find out more about calcium and vitamins and nutrition in pregnancy here.
Dealing with food cravings and morning sickness
You may get morning sickness leading to vomiting, or gastric reflux (heartburn). In both of these conditions, the stomach contents are acidic and can coat the teeth when you vomit or have reflux. This acid can cause dental erosion and increase the risk of tooth decay by dissolving tooth enamel.
- Don’t brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after vomiting or reflux. This will give the enamel time to recover from the acid attack.
- Do rinse your mouth with water after you vomit to help wash the acid away, and smear some fluoride toothpaste on your teeth to refresh your mouth and help strengthen enamel.
You may also have cravings for foods that can affect your teeth, such as sugary or acidic snacks and drinks (such as orange or other fruit juice), which increase the risk of tooth decay and erosion. To avoid these effects on your teeth:
- Choose a wide variety of snacks that are low in sugar, fat and salt, and high in fiber.
- Drink tap water.
- Rinse your mouth with tap water between meals.
For more information, see Pregnancy, Birth and Baby’s page on Food cravings.
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