Keeping on top of your oral health care during pregnancy is more important than you could ever imagine — for both mummy and baby. MH tells you why.
WORDS SAMANTHA TAN
With all the hustle and bustle surrounding pregnancy, especially if it is your first one, it is easy to see why mums-to-be often overlook oral healthcare. After all, isn't the visit to the gynaecologist for a scan to see your baby much more important? Well, that’s true to a certain extent, but believe it or not, maintaining good oral healthcare is an essential component of having a healthy pregnancy and falling behind on your dental health can have a less than desirable effect on your pregnancy.
Even if you don't trust us, surely you trust the experts. Dr Chong Hui Theng, dental surgeon at Raffles Dental says, “It is important to keep your gums and teeth healthy throughout pregnancy. Pregnancy increases the risk of developing gum disease which may impact the developing baby. Some studies have shown a possible association between gum disease and an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth and low birth weight." Dr Lennie Foo, registrar of the Peridontic Unit at the Department of Restorative Dentistry, National Dental Centre Singapore adds, “The pregnant lady may also suffer from pain and discomfort from the condition of gum disease or dental decay and this could affect her diet. Hence, all mothers should go for dental screening to manage their dental condition during their pregnancy. Besides visiting your obstetrics and gynaecology specialist, your antenatal check-up should also include a visit to the dental clinic.”
Keep Your Dentist in the Loop
As such, the best time to see your dentist is before pregnancy, so that any pre-existing dental problems and major dental needs can be treated first. But if you have not done that it is important to inform your dentist as soon as you confirm that you are pregnant, suspect that you may be so or even if you are just trying to conceive. Having this information on hand will allow your dentist to be able to better plan for any necessary X-rays or other types of treatment. Dr Tong Huei Jinn, consultant in Paediatric Dentistry at National University Hospital gives a reminder, “Before you have your dental appointment, do check with your obstetrician to see if they have any special precautions or instructions for you, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy or existing medical conditions. Tell your dentist of any change in the medications you are taking or if you have received any special advice from your physician.”
Common Oral Problems You Might Face
During pregnancy, the progesterone levels go way up and swollen and bleeding gums might make an appearance. Dr Tong explains, “Hormonal changes may worsen existing gum problems, causing the gums to be red, tender, swollen and bleed easily. This condition is known as pregnancy gingivitis. In extreme cases, the pregnant mum might develop localised gum swellings that have a red, raspberry-like appearance. This is called pregnancy epulis or pregnancy tumours and occur more commonly during the second trimester.”
Another common oral problem during pregnancy is
having a higher propensity for tooth decays and cavities,
leading to a higher risk for infections.
Dr Foo cautions, “When infection occurs, you will be required to undergo dental management to prevent pain and discomfort. In addition, prolonged morning sickness and gastric reflux might contribute to dental erosion and lead to erosion cavities, sensitive teeth and eventually, a need for filling.” This could be further exacerbated by bad snacking habits during pregnancy or difficulties in brushing because of increased gum inflammation caused by hormonal changes.
Managing Oral Problems
Pregnancy gingivitis can usually be resolved with gum cleaning to remove bacteria while pregnancy epulis usually resolves itself within a few months after delivery. However, if you are concerned about your pregnancy epulis and want to remove them surgically, you can check with your dentist to see if that is an option for you. Dr Chong advises, “Make an appointment with your dentist if you notice these oral problems. You can also prevent these conditions with good oral hygiene habits, including twice daily brushing, daily flossing and the use of non-alcohol antimicrobial mouth rinse.”