Oral health and pregnancy

Your hormones change during pregnancy. This can affect your oral health and your risk of gum disease (gingivitis) and infection of the bone holding the teeth in place (periodontitis). Periodontitis has also been associated with poor pregnancy outcomes such as having a pre-term delivery or a low birth-weight baby. However, how periodontitis may lead to these poor outcomes is not yet fully understood.

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 of your teeth by demineralizing. 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 before brushing your teeth to further reduce the acid in your mouth
  3. brush your teeth

Healthy eating choices

Healthy eating and taking a multivitamin plays an important role for you and your baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Healthy eating is also very important for your oral health.

Eating a variety of healthy foods is the best way to help get the nutrients you need. To eat a variety of healthy foods each day, follow Canada's food guide advice on healthy eating when pregnant and breastfeeding.

In addition to eating a variety of healthy foods, you need a multivitamin.

Choose healthy snacks

You can eat healthy snacks in between meals to help meet your nutrient needs. It is important to have healthy snack habits when it comes to snacking.

Choose foods that have little to no added sodium, sugars or saturated fat.

Health risks

If you have good oral health, you can prevent a number of risks to you and your baby. Pregnant people with poor oral health have a risk of developing periodontitis (infection of bone holding the teeth in place). This type of infection has been associated with poor pregnancy outcomes such as:

  • delivering a pre-term baby
  • delivering a baby with a low birth weight

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 may increase 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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