There has always been the incorrect belief that a pregnant woman should not receive dental treatment and all interventions should be postponed until after she has given birth. However, perinatal oral health of the pregnant mother (the period around birth, starting between 20 and 28 weeks and ending 4 weeks after birth) plays a crucial role in the general and oral health and well-being of the mother and baby-to-be.
Many mothers are unaware of the consequences of poor oral health for their pregnancy. Research concludes that:
- There is a relationship between periodontal disease and problems during pregnancysuch as premature birth, low birth weight and pre-eclampsia (toxaemia of pregnancy).
- Mothers with inadequate oral hygiene have increased levels of cariogenic bacteria in the mouth, thereby increasing the risk of transmission their babies at a very early age, and therefore, increasing the risk of developing Early Onset Caries (that which occurs before the age of six years).
The first objective, therefore, of perinatal dentistry is to reduce Streptococcus Mutans levels (the main bacterium responsible for tooth decay) in the mother and delay the risk of transmission to her future baby as long as possible. During this period, it is ideal to begin with the oral health preventionThe new mother-to-be has been shown to reduce the risk of tooth decay in children by providing dietary and oral hygiene instructions to the mother-to-be.
The dentistry in pregnant women also favours the establishment of a dental homewhich is highly effective in the prevention and care of children's oral health, something that in Spain and the United Kingdom is in the Region of Murcia is gradually beginning to be known and developed in leading dental centres..
- Brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing are essential for removing dental plaque, which can be increased due to more frequent food consumption.
- Chew sugar-free chewing gum with xylitol has also been found to be effective in preventing caries during this period.
- Alcohol-free rinses/mouthwashes and with a fluoride concentration of 0.05 % can be used daily.
- The use of a oscillating-rotating electric toothbrush helps to reduce plaque levels in the mouth, improving hygiene and controlling the possible appearance of gingivitis.
- Nausea and vomiting that can occur in pregnant women may cause mothers to avoid toothbrushing. In these cases, the ideal would be to perform rinses with water and a teaspoon of baking soda and postpone toothbrushing for one hour. In this way, we minimise the risk of tooth erosion by stomach acid.
- The cravings for sweet foods during pregnancy may increase the risk of caries. The cariogenic potential of the mother-to-be's diet can be reviewed by her dentist to minimise the risk of possible caries lesions in her, and the consequent impact on her future baby.
- Every pregnant woman should undergo a oral health check-up by specialised professionals and receive advice on hygiene instructions, as there is a direct link between the presence of cariogenic bacteria in babies born to mothers with caries.
- During pregnancy, dental treatment can and should be provided if necessary, with the most appropriate period being the second quarter. Treatment options may include diagnostic x-rays if required by the patient (with appropriate protection), dental prophylaxis, periodontal treatment and restorations or fillings. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs for infection and pain control are warranted. Acute infection situations should be treated, the risk to the foetus being greater if treatment is delayed.
Thus, we can conclude by indicating that pregnancy is the ideal period to start with prevention in children's oral health, as expectant mothers are very receptive to any information that is beneficial for their future babies, so if you are pregnant, or think you might be, we recommend that you make an appointment with your dentist immediately... your own oral health, and that of your baby, will thank you.