Advice to Mums

It must often seem that as soon as pregnancy is confirmed every health care professional descends on the ‘mum to be’ with all sorts of good advice on how to treat this ‘disease’. Many ladies could survive this time on their own, relying on their own good judgement and common sense, taking advice as and when they feel they need it, and have a natural childbirth. However, some mums become confused with conflicting advice from the current fad to the old wives’ tale.

During pregnancy various factors can impair your dental health and result in the pregnant mum becoming a high risk for tooth decay and gum disease.

Tooth Decay

The old wives’ tales that “you lose a tooth for every child” and that “your teeth become soft because baby takes all the calcium from your teeth” have no scientific basis.

The calcium in your teeth stays there, and suffice it to say that in Africa, severely malnourished pregnant mothers produce babies and do not have a high rate of tooth decay, or softer teeth, or increased tooth loss from tooth decay. In western societies, pregnant mums can have increased tooth decay because they alter their normal diet, develop food fads, binges and cravings and ‘feed for two’. By continuing with a well- balanced nutritional diet with definite meal times and avoid snacking, dental disease should not increase. If you are not sure about healthy eating, ask your Health Visitor who can give you excellent detailed advice. Not only will your teeth benefit from sensible eating, but also you will not increase weight and you will be fitter when baby arrives.

Should you take fluoride tablets when you are pregnant “for baby’s teeth?” Fluoride does cross the placenta and would be incorporated into developing tooth germs, but it is unwise to take tablets when pregnant. Alcohol, smoking and the taking of tablets, except those prescribed for medical reasons by your doctor, should not be encouraged during the development of your child.

Morning Sickness

When morning sickness occurs the acidity from the stomach can soften a microscopic outer layer of your teeth. If vigorously scrubbed immediately after vomiting, to get rid of the taste, the softened outer surface of the tooth may be removed. It is better just to rinse out with water or a mouthwash and brush after thirty minutes or so, when the teeth have hardened again.

Gum Diseases

Biological changes occurring during pregnancy cause an increased susceptibility to gum disease by producing an exaggerated response to the effects of dental plaque. Unfortunately during this busy time, mums tend to neglect themselves, especially if they are looking after other young children, and their normal good grooming routine may be disrupted. Gum diseases can be recognized by painless bleeding when eating or when brushing and sometimes little lumps can appear on the gums (pregnancy epulis). Regular, thorough, plaque control (tooth cleaning) will enable the gums to heal. Your dentist should examine any persistent lumps, but usually no treatment is required and they disappear after the baby is born.

Ideally you should be dentally fit before pregnancy, but if treatment is required it is better to have this done during the fourth to sixth month of pregnancy. Dental treatment from the seventh month onwards can be uncomfortable simply by having to lie in the dental chair, but lying on your side with the armrest removed can reduce this discomfort.

Recent evidence suggests that the taking of X-rays will not harm the foetus, however we still prefer to delay any X-rays until after the birth unless they are really necessary.