When I attended the first appointment with my midwife, she advised me to “stock up on old-fashioned sweets like cola cubes” because my body “needed sugar” now that I was pregnant. She even recommended that I keep the sweets by my bedside with a can of fizzy pop so that if I woke up in the middle of the night, I could top up my ‘energy levels.’ I was gobsmacked. For the first time I understood how the old wives tale “you’ll lose a tooth for every child” is still doing the rounds and that’s before we’ve even ventured into the risk factors for gestational diabetes. So, is it possible to maintain your dental health during pregnancy? Of course it is! Here’s how….
Tips for optimal dental health during pregnancy
1) Ideally, make an appointment for a dental check up before you begin trying for a baby. This will enable your dentist to take x-rays and ensure you are dentally fit before you become pregnant. Failing that, it is still safe to take x-rays in the second trimester. Dental care in the UK is free during pregnancy until your baby’s first birthday. Make the most of it! Getting your teeth fixed is part of your health MOT – believe me you do not want to be dealing with toothache and a newborn baby.
2) If you get pregnancy sickness, resist the urge to brush your teeth straight after vomiting. If you do, you risk brushing away the enamel which has been softened by the acidic nature of your stomach contents. Try using a fluoride mouthrinse, such as Colgate Fluorigard, instead to take away the yucky taste and leave it half an hour before brushing.
3) Brush your teeth twice a day, every day with a fluoridated toothpaste. Come on, it’s 5 minutes of your day. You can manage that! Did you know that you should spit out but not rinse your mouth after brushing? The reason for this is that by not rinsing you hold the fluoride in your mouth so it can continue to protect your teeth.
4) Use a fluoride mouthwash at a different time of day to brushing. Did you know, studies have shown this can reduce the number of holes you get in your teeth by nearly a third? It doesn’t matter which mouthwash you use – just check it is fluoridated.
5) Try to avoid eating and drinking in the ‘golden hour’ before bed. Eating in this hour, even if you brush your teeth, will increase your risk of getting holes. This is because as you sleep, your saliva dries up and the protective washing and neutralising effect is lost.
6) If you are struggling to eat ‘normal’ size meals and need to consider snacks, try to make these healthy from a nutritional but also a dental perspective. There is some useful information on the NHS Choices Website about diet during pregnancy (I could never remember which foods I was allowed to eat and what I was supposed to avoid). Try crunchy carrot sticks and hummous, crackers and fruit…..not cola cubes and lucozade please 😉
7) If you retch when you brush (I did right until Ava was actually born) then try to find a time of day you feel less queasy. It is important to brush last thing at night but the second time of day can be at any other time. I found it helpful to take a toothbrush into work and clean my teeth mid-morning because there were days when any earlier would have not been pretty 🙁
8) Bleeding gums are probably more likely during pregnancy because of all of the hormones racing around your body. If you do notice any bleeding please don’t stop brushing your teeth! The bleeding is a sign of inflammation and a message that you need to brush more, not less. If the bleeding persists for more than 3 days, please make an appointment to see your dentist.
9) Try to keep your ‘intakes’ down to a maximum of 5 per day. An ‘intake’ is anything you eat or drink which contains any form of sugar. So one biscuit or your lunch both count as an intake. This matters because every time we have anything to eat or drink, the bacteria in our mouthes begin to metabolise (use) this sugar and in doing so they make acid which, yes you guessed it, makes holes in our teeth. It takes your mouth around 30 minutes to counteract this attack. So, if you want to win the battle, try to avoid grazing, sipping on fizzy drinks and cut out the sugar in your tea and coffee. If you want chocolate – have it as a treat with a meal, same goes for fizzy drinks. That way you still get the occasional sweet hit you crave, but it does not cause as much damage to your teeth.
10) For a dental gold star, floss at least once a day before you brush your teeth. That way, you dislodge rotting food from between your teeth so that it can be brushed away. I know, flossing is another thing to add to your ‘to do’ list, but if you are looking for extra motivation just smell the floss after you have used it – seriously vile!
I loved being pregnant. I was in awe of my amazing body as I grew my gorgeous girl 🙂 I saw pregnancy as a chance to nurture myself. I made sure to make time for pregnancy yoga (I am a big fan of Tara Lee) and tried not to work the ridiculous hours I’d maintained pre-pregnancy. Why not see your pregnancy as a time to take a bit more care of yourself, and that includes your teeth. I hope you now feel a little more empowered to optimise your dental health during pregnancy 🙂