Oral health and pregnancy

Your hormones change during pregnancy. This can affect your oral health and your risk of gum and bone disease. Keeping your teeth and mouth healthy can decrease your risk of having a pre-term delivery or a low birth-weight baby. 

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Taking care of your oral health

To clean your mouth properly, you should:

  • floss daily
  • drink fluoridated water where available
  • brush your teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes, using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste

Schedule a checkup in your first trimester to have your teeth cleaned and your oral health checked.

Morning sickness and oral health

Morning sickness during pregnancy can expose your teeth to stomach acid and weaken the surface or your teeth. This puts you at higher risk of tooth decay and erosion of your teeth.

If you vomit from morning sickness, there are 3 steps to follow:

  1. rinse your mouth with water or a fluoride mouth wash immediately after vomiting
  2. after rinsing your mouth, wait for at least 30 minutes to further reduce the acid in your mouth
  3. brush your teeth

Diet choices

Healthy eating is essential for your oral health, your overall health and the health of your baby. To keep your teeth strong and healthy during pregnancy, follow Canada's Food Guide for healthy diet choices.

Reduce your consumption of foods and beverages high in added sugars. Make sure the food you eat includes enough:

  • protein
  • calcium
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin D
  • phosphorous

During pregnancy, you have different nutrient needs. Take a daily multivitamin that contains folic acid and iron to help ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Include calcium

Calcium is an important part of your diet. Your growing baby needs it for strong bones and teeth. If your diet is low in calcium, your body will take it from your bones and blood for your baby.

If you have low blood calcium you will also have low calcium in your saliva. Calcium in your saliva helps remineralize your tooth enamel when it has been demineralized by acids.

Make sure to eat enough foods high in calcium, like dairy products, and take a calcium supplement if needed. That way, both you and your baby will have enough calcium without putting your bones and teeth at risk.

Choose healthy snacks

You can eat healthy snacks in between meals to meet your daily nutritional needs. Try to avoid soft, sweet and sticky snacks that are high in carbohydrates and sugar. These will lead to dental plaque, which could lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

You can find some ideas for healthy snacks in Pregnancy and Healthy Eating.

Health risks

If you have good oral health, you can prevent a number of risks to you and your baby. Pregnant mothers with poor oral health have a risk of:

  • delivering a pre-term baby
  • delivering a baby with a low birth weight
  • having pre-eclampsia (pregnancy hypertension)

Babies who are pre-term or have low birth weight have a higher risk of:

  • asthma
  • infant death
  • ear infections
  • birth abnormalities
  • behavioral difficulties
  • developmental issues

If you have any questions about your oral health, schedule an appointment with your oral health professional in your first trimester.

Oral health and substance use

For your oral health and overall health, as well as the health and safety of your baby:

  • do not smoke or use any tobacco products and avoid second hand smoke
    • when you or the people around you smoke, your baby smokes too
    • smoking can increase the risks of having a premature delivery or low birth weight baby
    • smoking can contribute to gum disease and loss of bone structure around your teeth
    • exposure to second hand smoke increases the risk of caries in your baby's primary teeth
  • do not drink alcohol
    • there is no safe amount or time to drink alcohol during pregnancy or when planning a pregnancy
    • drinking alcohol during pregnancy can have a negative impact on the development of your baby's teeth, among other things
  • do not use recreational drugs, such as cannabis
    • smoking cannabis increases the risks of oral diseases
    • using recreational drugs can have a negative impact on the development of your baby's teeth, among other things

Bleeding gums

Your hormones change during pregnancy and this can affect your gums. They may be more sensitive and they might bleed easily, even if you have good oral hygiene.

Pregnancy gingivitis

Any time between the third and ninth month of pregnancy, you may experience "pregnancy gingivitis." Pregnancy gingivitis is when your gums are swollen, red or irritated from bacteria along the gum line. Your gums are more sensitive because your estrogen and progesterone hormones have increased during your pregnancy.

Make sure to brush your teeth regularly. Gently clean your teeth at the gum line, where gum disease starts, and don't forget to floss.

Visit your oral health professional for checkups during pregnancy, because sometimes gingivitis can turn into periodontitis.

Most of the time, pregnancy-related gum problems will disappear after childbirth. If they continue, contact your oral health professional.

Visit your oral health professional

Schedule a checkup in your first trimester to have your teeth cleaned and your oral health checked. Be sure to tell your oral health professional that you are pregnant.

If you need dental work, like fillings, the best time to have it done is the second trimester. This is between the fourth and sixth month of your pregnancy.

It is a good idea to avoid X-rays while you are pregnant. X-rays of your mouth should only be taken in an emergency. If you need an X-ray, make sure you are covered with a lead apron to protect your baby from the radiation.

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