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Why is dental health important during pregnancy?

A nationwide survey released by the Australian Dental Association (ADA), reveals that more than 50 per cent of expectant mothers are jeopardising their oral health by not visiting their dentist during pregnancy.

The Australian Women and Dental Health Survey found that 53.7 percent of women don’t believe they should visit a dentist while pregnant due to safety concerns.

 “Getting a check-up during pregnancy is not only safe, but important for a woman’s dental health, and the health of her unborn child” says Dr Peter Alldritt, Dentist and Chair of the ADA’s Oral Health Committee.

If you are planning to become pregnant, it’s important to stabilise any gum or tooth infections early, and maintain good dental health throughout your pregnancy, as these precautions can significantly reduce the risk of gingival inflammation.  Regular appointments with your dentist and dental hygienists before and during pregnancy is important. 

What symptoms can pregnant women experience?

The survey also revealed that 38 per cent of pregnant women have experienced symptoms of gum disease, such as bleeding gums, gum sensitivity and sensitive teeth.  “The prevalence of gum disease during pregnancy is high, with one in two pregnant women affected,” says Dr Alldritt.

One common pregnancy-related oral change is a reversible and temporary condition known as pregnancy gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums causing redness of the gums, as well as swelling, sensitivity, and bleeding from brushing and flossing.

If poor control of bacteria in a pregnant woman’s body leads to particularly severe gum disease, this can pose a risk to the unborn child in the form of premature labour and low birth weight.

The hormonal changes combined with normal levels of bacteria can also produce harmless but unsightly “pregnancy tumours” (pyogenic granulomas) on your gums. These tumours, which appear as lumpy, red swellings between your teeth, normally resolve after birth and with regularly maintained oral hygiene practices.

How does morning sickness during pregnancy affect your oral health?

The survey also revealed that three quarters of women were not aware that morning sickness can lead to permanent damage to teeth.  “Morning sickness can cause permanent damage to teeth, and frequent vomiting can also coat teeth with strong stomach acids, which can weaken the tooth enamel and increase the risk of tooth decay and erosion.”

Many women have the urge to brush their teeth after a bout of acid reflux, but it is recommended that you rinse with water, chew sugar-free gum or, if possible, snack on dairy foods such as milk or cheese which have acid-neutralising benefits. Try to avoid brushing for at least 30 minutes after any regurgitation episode, and if you are still feeling the need to freshen your mouth, try using your finger to gently smear fluoridated toothpaste over the surfaces of your teeth (no scrubbing!).

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