Being healthy must be everyone’s top priority and it becomes extremely important if someone is planning to welcome a newborn into the world. This can be an overwhelming time both physically and emotionally. As you embark on the journey of motherhood it’s important to be healthy and that involves even your oral health.
According to Dr. Diksha Tahilramani Batra – an internationally trained Prosthodontist and Implantologist – it’s important to visit your dentist for prenatal dental care just like doctor visits for prenatal checkups. Your dentist can help discuss changes in oral health during pregnancy and what to look for.
“Contrary to popular beliefs and myths most mothers to be do not realize the impact of their oral health and hygiene on their pregnancy and eventually their child’s oral health. I am often asked the question when should a child first visit the dentist ? The most common answer people assume is 6 months to a year or when the teeth erupt but the truth is a child must visit a dentist even before they are born and sometimes even before they are conceived,” Dr Batra said.
Prenatal care includes the oral care of the child and mother combined and this applies even more to mothers who have suffered multiple dental problems from cavities to gum disease.
Below are four critical moments of prenatal dental care as explained by Dr Batra.
1. Pre Conceiving Stage
It is ideal to get a dental health check when you decide to plan a baby. The best approach would be to prepare yourself and your body for the intense period you are about to go through. Your focus over the next year or so will be the baby so a mother should be in the best state of health she can be.
At this stage, there are no restrictions on medication, x-ray imaging, and even duration of procedures or types of treatment. It is ideal to understand the link between your oral health and that of your baby’s at this point.
Married women who are at an expectant age can even be unaware of their status so must always be asked and treated with caution on x-ray imaging and unnecessary medications.
2. During Pregnancy
If you skipped a dental visit in the planning phase or didn’t really have a problem with your dental health, to begin with, then a dental visit after you have conceived becomes essential. At this time there may be restrictions to treatments, medications, and your movements during pregnancy, especially in the first and last trimesters. The second trimester however is deemed safe for treating any dental problems even root canals or small surgeries if needed. This period is the safest and it is at this time that we must remove all decay bacteria and gum disease and bring the expectant mother’s mouth to a state of optimum health.
Decay-causing bacteria and those implicated in gum disease have been linked to low birth weight babies and predispose the baby to have a higher tendency to develop decay when they’re growing. A mother to be must realizes that she is really brushing for two and her oral hygiene at this point determines her child’s dental health and future.
Anything that may trigger in the coming months right up to the initial nursing phase when the mother may not be able to visit the clinic must be dealt with.
It is important however to remember that no x-ray imaging, certain antibiotics, and pain medication not be given at this stage. Keeping the appointment short and pain-free is ideal for the comfort of the mother. It may be a good idea to involve and inform the obstetrician for any major dental work and obtain consent.
3. Prenatal Home Care
Once you have fixed major issues then you must be able to maintain this throughout pregnancy and well after. Follow these simple steps
Eat a tooth-friendly diet. Your baby’s teeth begin to develop during the second trimester and what you eat greatly affects the growth of your unborn child. Consuming a variety of nutritious foods is a vital part of prenatal care. A healthy diet includes dairy products, including cheese and yogurt. These are sources of calcium and essential minerals that are good for the baby’s developing teeth, gums, and bones. Include a lot of Vitamin C, Calcium, Vitamin B12 in your diet with supplements, or green leafy vegetables.
Morning sickness remedies: For the mothers who are suffering from this must be careful to brush after every episode of vomiting and ensure using bland toothpaste. The acidic nature of the vomit can damage the teeth if not cleaned.
Keep up with daily care: Even if you may not have taken your dental hygiene seriously till this point now you must as you are now responsible for your baby’s tooth development. Brushing twice daily with a soft brush is no longer optional but mandatory. Cleaning between teeth with the help of a water flosser or regular floss can be done to ensure no plaque residues. As you may be highly susceptible to plaque and bacteria in this phase.
Visiting your dentist at the slightest sign of bleeding, pain, or even discoloration in your teeth is recommended.
4. Infant’s Dental Visit
Some may believe Prenatal dental care ends at childbirth but this can extend well up to the child’s first dental visit at the stage where their first baby tooth erupts. At this point, both the mother and the child must be examined. The infant’s dental exam is only to familiarize them with the surroundings and teach the mother hygiene practices for the infant’s mouth. The mother’s dental exam is to ensure treating any problems that had to be delayed due to pregnancy.
Pregnancy also causes hormonal changes that increase your risk of developing gum disease. These changes also can affect the health of your developing baby. These changes should settle by your infant’s dental visit, by making this session compulsory we allow the mother to take time to actually look after her dental health as well. The great responsibility of a baby can make a new mother prone to dental problems as they pay less attention to themselves.