Healthy Smiles for Mothers and Babies
Good oral health habits not only help prevent problems during pregnancy, but they can also benefit the health of your baby.
Before Your Baby Arrives
Eat a Healthy Diet
What you eat during pregnancy affects the growth of your unborn child – including their teeth. Your baby’s teeth begin to develop between months 3 and 6 of pregnancy, so it’s important that you take in enough nutrients – especially calcium, protein, phosphorous, and vitamins A, C, and D.
You do not lose calcium from your teeth during pregnancy.
It’s a myth that this happens. The calcium your baby needs is provided by your diet and not by your teeth. So, be sure to get enough calcium in your diet by having at least 3 servings of dairy products per day. Or, your obstetrician (OB/GYN) may recommend that you take calcium pills to help make sure you are getting enough calcium.
Snacking and Tooth Decay
During pregnancy, you may feel hungry between meals. While this is normal, frequent snacking on sugary foods can lead to problems with your mouth.
Your mouth is covered with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Plaque feeds on the sugars in your snacks. They create acid from the sugars, which attack the protective outer layer (enamel) of your teeth. This can lead to tooth decay and cavities. Also, an infection that can be caused by decay can spread. Either of these problems must be treated by a dentist.
When you need a snack, choose healthy foods for you and your baby, such as raw fruits and vegetables and dairy products. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov and follow your doctor’s advice.
How Pregnancy May Affect Your Gums
Pregnancy hormones can make your gum tissue more sensitive to plaque bacteria. Your gums may become red, tender, and puffy. They are likely to bleed easily when you brush your teeth. This condition is called gingivitis (jin-ja-VIE-tis) and it’s an early stage of periodontal (perry-o-DON-tal) disease. Your dentist may recommend that you have cleanings more often during your second trimester or early third trimester to help you avoid problems.
In some women, growths of tissue called “pregnancy tumors” appear on the gums, most often during the second trimester. These growths or swellings are usually found between the teeth and are believed to be related to excess plaque. They look red and raw. They usually disappear after the baby is born. Pregnancy tumors usually don’t cause problems but bleed easily, so it’s important to see your dentist.
Daily Oral Care Is Very Important while Pregnant
Keep Visiting Your Dentist Regularly
Tell your dentist:
- if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant soon.
- about any changes in your health.
- all of the medicines you are taking – with or without a prescription.
- about any medical advice your doctor has given you.
During pregnancy, keep seeing your dentist regularly for oral exams and teeth cleaning. If you are worried about the effects any drug, treatment, or x-ray might have on your pregnancy, discuss your concerns with your dentist and physician.
Dental X-Rays Are Generally Safe during Pregnancy
Radiation from dental x-rays is low. Current guidelines say it is riskier for you to put off necessary dental treatment than to have an x-ray when you are pregnant. This is because dental disease that isn’t treated during pregnancy can lead to problems for you and your baby.
Tell your dentist or hygienist if you are or might be pregnant. If an x-ray exam is needed, your dental team will take steps to keep the x-ray exposure as low as possible.
After Your Baby Is Born
Your Baby’s Teeth
Your child’s baby (primary) teeth begin to appear about 6 months after birth. Most children have a full set of 20 baby teeth by age 3. Strong, healthy baby teeth help your child chew food easily, learn to speak clearly, and smile. They also help give your child’s face its shape.
Baby teeth can start to decay as soon as they appear
You may not realize it, but your baby’s teeth can start to decay as soon as they appear in their mouth. This can happen when your baby’s teeth are in contact with sugary liquids often and for long periods. These liquids include fruit juice, soda, and even milk and formula. If decay is not treated, it can destroy the baby teeth of an infant or young child.
Tooth Care for Your Caby
The good news is that your child can avoid tooth decay. Here are a few simple steps you can take to keep your child’s smile healthy:
- Never let your baby fall asleep with a bottle filled with milk, formula, fruit juice or any other sugary liquid.
- Never give your baby a pacifier dipped in sugar or honey.
- Do not put a pacifier in your mouth to clean it and then put it in your baby’s mouth. You can pass decay-causing bacteria to your baby.
- Start cleaning your baby’s mouth early.
- Before teeth appear, wipe your baby’s gums with a wet washcloth or a clean gauze pad after each feeding.
- As soon as their first tooth appears, start brushing your baby’s teeth 2 times a day (morning and night). Use a child-sized toothbrush with soft bristles and a fluoride toothpaste.
Plan your child’s first dental visit after the first tooth comes in but no later than their first birthday.
Think of the first dental visit as a “well-baby checkup” for your child’s teeth. This can help start a good relationship between your child and their dentist.
- Check your child’s teeth regularly.
- Share information about preventing tooth decay with others who may be helping care for your child.
- Getting the right amount of fluoride is best.
Patient education content ©2020 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. “ADA” and the “ADA” Logo are registered trademarks of the American Dental Association.
Norman Medina DDS, graduated from Loma Linda University Dental School in 1994. He has been practicing dentistry in Midcoast Maine since 1994. He and his wife Lanita have four children.