Month: April 2018

Pregnancy and dental health

Pregnancy affects almost every aspect of a woman’s health and changes in hormone levels increase the risk of oral health issues. As an expectant mother, the best thing to do is to nurture and maintain your dental and general health. Eating a balanced diet that provides you and the baby with calcium, phosphorus and other vitamins and minerals is important for your baby’s teeth and bones.

Hormones can sometimes make your gums swell during pregnancy. Inflammation of the gums, or gingivitis, is especially common during the second through the eighth month. The American Pregnancy Association recommends being proactive and consulting with your dentist, who might recommend more frequent cleanings until your baby is born.

Occasionally, non-cancerous localized growths or swelling of gum tissue, (“pregnancy tumors”), appear on the gums during the second trimester. These are believed to be related to excess plaque so it’s especially important to maintain a high level of oral hygiene during pregnancy. Studies have indicated that pregnant women who have periodontal (gum) disease may be at a higher risk for preterm birth and low birth weight.

A common part of pregnancy, morning sickness, can also result in problems with dental health because the acid from your stomach can contribute to tooth erosion, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Suffering from heartburn or acid reflux during your pregnancy can have the same effect on your teeth.

While it’s tempting to brush your teeth immediately after a bout of morning sickness, protecting the enamel with a rinse of baking soda and water afterward is the best. Baking soda helps to neutralize the acid from your stomach and will help wash away harmful residue.

The old wives tale to “expect a lost tooth for every baby,” is thankfully false, but pregnancy does require extra attention to calcium and vitamin D consumption. Increasing the daily intake of calcium during pregnancy is helpful for protecting bone mass during pregnancy, and vitamin D helps the body utilize calcium efficiently.

To keep your mouth (and baby) healthy during pregnancy, be sure to let your dentist know you’re expecting as soon as you can. They may need to adjust treatments or medications, like postponing procedures until after the baby is born to avoid taking risks. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the second trimester is often the ideal time to have minor dental work performed, such as having a cavity filled, or a professional cleaning, if needed.

Seeing your dentist for a cleaning is safe while you are pregnant and the ACOG encourages it and recommends that OB/GYNs work with patients and their dentists to ensure that every pregnancy is a safe and healthy one.

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Foods that help and hurt your teeth

It’s common sense that every food you eat or beverage you drink, will come in contact with your teeth. Therefore, everything you consume is going to have an impact on your teeth and gums, as well as your overall health.

Many of the foods that Americans consume are sugary, processed, and highly acidic, but it’s important to focus on eating healthy foods that won’t erode your teeth while also promoting overall health. Proper eating and drinking guidelines will greatly reduce the risk of tooth erosion and cavities while helping keep your smile looking bright and healthy, longer.

Diets rich in sugary and sticky foods have long been associated with cavities, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Limiting sugary foods and drinks like candy and cookies, in addition to sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks and even juices is important. Not surprisingly, some brands of spaghetti sauce, cereals, and even canned fruit contain high amounts of sugar so it’s practical to check the sugar content on labels when shopping.

Some people don’t realize that sticky foods like raisins, honey, and molasses, and starchy foods like bread and potato chips, can cling to the surface of your teeth and increase the risk of cavities.  However, if they’re eaten in moderation, combined with good oral health behaviors such as brushing and flossing regularly, these foods are less harmful.

Fresh produce is obviously an important part of a healthy diet, but watch out for citrus fruits which are acidic and can affect tooth enamel. Fortunately, they are less likely to harm your teeth if you eat them as part of a meal rather than by themselves, but keep in mind that acidic fruits in other forms (like juice) are still acidic.

Beverages like coffee, tea, and red wine, are prone to staining teeth because they contain pigments called chromogens which attach to and stain tooth enamel. If you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evenings, just be sure to drink plenty of water too and it will help wash away tooth-staining substances. Chugging plenty of water throughout the day has considerable advantages for your health, including aiding your teeth. Plain water is best and helps wash away some of the harmful elements, but beverages that aren’t sweetened can also be safe.

Calcium is an important factor in maintaining healthy teeth and decreases as we age. According to a study from the journal of Public Health Nutrition in 2016, the recommended daily allowance of calcium makes you less likely to develop gum disease. Along with milk and other dairy products, foods that are high in calcium include beans, almonds, and leafy greens, the ADA says.

If you have questions about foods or beverages that could have harmful effects on your oral health, talk with your dental professional.  Skipping dental appointments may not seem like a big deal, but oral issues can develop and progress quickly. Taking good care of your teeth and gums, along with keeping up with cleanings and checkups will have a significant impact in the long run.

American Dental Group is a family-owned Colorado company partnering with independent hometown dentists to deliver high quality dental care to our members.  See how an American Dental Group membership can save you money on dental care, vision materials, and prescription drugs.

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