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How to Maintain Good Dental Health at Every Stage of Your Pregnancy

Five tips from BC Dental Association's Dr. Bruce Ward on how to keep your teeth strong and in good condition before, during and after pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of great physical change, and your mouth is no exception. Regular dental exams and good oral care – before, during and after pregnancy – go a long way toward making sure mom and baby are off to a healthy teeth-smart start.

Follow these five tips from Dr. Bruce Ward, spokesperson for the British Columbia Dental Association.

If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, it’s important to keep your dentist in the know. They can suggest ways to minimize your disease risk and make any necessary recommendations.

For example, Dr. Ward says, some patients might have to step up their regular dental maintenance. “Your hormones kick in and your gums become very red and inflamed,” he says, which can lead to patients backing off on their brushing and bacteria building up.

In general, Dr. Ward notes, dental care during pregnancy is safe, including X-rays when necessary (such as for a bad toothache).

As hard as it might be, try to curb those cravings for sugar-heavy food and drinks. Reach for whole fruits instead of juice, and teeth-friendly fare such as cheese, nuts and veggies instead of chocolate or ice cream.

But it’s still OK to indulge from time to time, Dr. Ward says, as long as your personal dental hygiene is kept up. “If you’re going to have something sweet or sugary, rinse your mouth out right after you’ve had it and then make sure you brush and floss.”

Bonus tip: limit sweet items to mealtimes when saliva levels are high; saliva neutralizes bacteria and protects teeth.

If you are prone to morning sickness, be sure to rinse your mouth with water after each bout. Better yet, if you can stomach it, says Dr. Ward, use a mixture of water and baking soda. This will help neutralize the acid left behind, which damages protective tooth enamel.

After rinsing, cautions Dr. Ward, it’s important to resist the urge to brush your teeth right away. “The acid from the vomit softens your enamel, and then when you brush your teeth you actually remove a lot of your enamel.”

Keeping on top of your personal dental care during pregnancy includes brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once a day.

“One of the problems with pregnancy is that your gums can swell, and as they swell there’s a little bit more recession and it exposes your roots a bit more,” Dr. Ward says. “So bathing your root surfaces with fluoride on a regular basis really helps to strengthen the roots.”

To help counter morning sickness or an exaggerated gag reflex, he adds, try using a small amount of fluoride toothpaste or low-foaming fluoride toothpaste, and a brush with a smaller head.

It’s never too early to start your baby’s dental care. Indeed, strong healthy baby teeth bode well for speech, nutrition and adult-teeth development.

Even before the first tooth appears, Dr. Ward says, get in the daily habit of gently wiping your baby’s gums with a soft damp cloth. It not only cleans the mouth but also sets your child up for their own oral hygiene and dental visits.

“Getting kids used to having their mouths worked in is a great first step… Then they watch you brushing your teeth and they start to pattern after that. Then it just becomes a habit.”

Dr. Ward recommends booking your child’s first dental exam at age one or one-and-a-half, or within six months of the first tooth erupting.

Presented by British Columbia Dental Association