First trimester to baby: Oral care tips for pregnant women

a man and woman brushing their teeth while looking at each other in front of a mirror

Pregnancy and the hormonal changes it entails can have a significant impact on the pH balance of your mouth. These changes create the ideal conditions for harmful bacteria to flourish, so pregnant women are more predisposed to the development of plaque, tooth decay and periodontal disease. Hormonal changes can also lead to bleeding, swollen gums and tenderness that make brushing and flossing a challenge. Leaving minor dental issues untended during your pregnancy can diminish the integrity and appeal of your smile and may compromise the health of your child. Fortunately, there are a number of simple steps you can take to protect your oral health and your unborn baby throughout gestation.

Schedule regular checkups

If you haven’t been diligent in getting regular dental checkups before your pregnancy, now is the time to start. Unchecked infections of the gums and teeth can lead to both premature birth and low birth weight. It can also result in weakening and loosening of the natural tooth structures and a range of additional problems. Having regular dental checkups can eliminate plaque deposits and identify minor oral health issues before they spiral out of control. Switching to a softer toothbrush when dealing with periodic bleeding, soreness or inflammation of the gums will allow you to effectively clean your teeth without experiencing extreme discomfort.

Preventing pregnancy gingivitis

One of the most common oral health issues among pregnant women is pregnancy gingivitis. With increased bacteria on the interior of the mouth, gum infections—or pregnancy gingivitis—become far more likely. You can restore proper pH balance in the mouth by brushing with baking soda and avoiding highly acidic foods and foods that are high in sugar. With the pH balance restored, the number of cavity-causing microorganisms in your mouth will invariably decrease. Oil pulling or rinsing the mouth for several minutes with sesame or coconut oil will also limit cavity-causing microorganisms, sooth sore gums and reduce overall acidity.

Morning sickness

Pregnant women should take special care of their teeth when dealing with morning sickness. Frequent bouts of vomiting expose the teeth to stomach acids that gradually break down the tooth enamel. Always brush your teeth immediately after vomiting and rinse your mouth with a mild saltwater solution or standard mouthwash. This is also the perfect time to brush your teeth with baking soda, given that this low-cost and highly accessible powder is alkaline and will effectively neutralize any remaining acids.

Dental treatments during pregnancy

Dental care during pregnancy should never create risks or unnecessary complications for your baby. While it’s still important to schedule dental visits, your provider will implement a modified plan of preventative care that excludes or limits X-rays and elective treatments. Procedures that do not need to be performed right away, such as those that are purely aesthetic, will be delayed until after your baby has been born.

While you should postpone cosmetic procedures until after your pregnancy, this does not mean you can’t obtain treatment for problems that are causing discomfort or affecting your overall oral health. If you have a chipped, cracked or infected tooth, seeking immediate attention is important. Much like any other form of infection, untreated oral infections can negatively impact your baby. There are many modified forms of care that a dentist can provide in order to minimize the risks of treatment at this time.