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Oral Health Care for Expecting Mothers and Infants

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Oral Health Care for Expecting Mothers and Infants

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Maintaining oral health is an important component of overall health in pregnant women and infants. The below article details the same.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Preetha. J

Published At April 24, 2017
Reviewed AtJuly 1, 2022

Introduction

Oral health is a vital part of one's overall health. In women, oral health care is much more critical during pregnancy. Pregnancy may make women susceptible to periodontal (gum) disease and dental caries. Poor oral health in pregnant women can lead to poor health outcomes for the mother and baby, including pre-eclampsia, premature delivery, low birth weight baby, pregnancy granuloma, gingival tissue ulcerations, and pregnancy tumors. Oral health problems are also common in infants. Tooth decay, tooth sensitivity, pediatric gingivitis and gum disease, thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and lip sucking are some of the oral problems seen in infants.

.

What Are the Common Oral Health Problems During Pregnancy?

These include:

  • Gingivitis and Periodontitis: About 60 to 75 % of pregnant women experience gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease that happens when the gums become red and swollen due to inflammation. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, an advanced gum disease that includes bone loss.

  • Dental Caries: Pregnant women are also at more risk for cavities due to changes in eating habits. For example, frequent snacking and grazing during pregnancy put teeth in constant contact with acid in food, increasing the production of acid-loving bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans. After delivery, these bacteria can be transmitted from the women's mouth to their baby's mouth, leading to early childhood caries.

  • Pregnancy Tumors (Pyogenic Granuloma): They are not cancerous. Instead, these tumors are lumps on the gums, usually between teeth. They appear red and bleed easily. They are often caused by too much plaque (a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth). After delivery, these tumors usually go away on their own. Rarely do they need to be removed by a health care provider.

  • Tooth Erosion: Morning sickness (nausea and vomiting) typically happens during pregnancy, usually in the first few months. It can expose the teeth to too much stomach acid, and the acid can harm tooth enamel, causing tooth erosion.

What Are the Common Oral Health Problems in Infants?

Several problems affect infants' oral health, including:

  • Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (Early Childhood Caries): This happens when a baby's teeth come in frequent contact with sugars from beverages, like juices, milk, or any other sweet drink. When breastfed infants fall asleep with unswallowed milk in their mouths, there is also a risk of tooth decay.

  • Thumb Sucking: It is quite normal for infants to suck their thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, or toys. This habit provides children with a sense of emotional security and comfort. But if this habit continues beyond the age of 5, when the permanent teeth begin to appear, dental problems can occur. Depending on the frequency, intensity, and duration of the thumb sucking, the infant's teeth can be pushed out of alignment, causing protrusion and creating an overbite.

  • Lip Sucking: It involves repeatedly holding the lower lip under the upper front teeth. This practice can result in an overbite and similar problems as with thumb sucking and tongue thrusting.

What Are the Tips to Maintain Good Oral Health During Pregnancy?

Oral health is an important part of prenatal care. Following practices can help protect the oral health of expecting mothers:

  • Visit a dentist for regular dental checkups during pregnancy. Dental X-rays are also safe during pregnancy.

  • More frequent teeth cleanings from the dentist also help control plaque and prevent gingivitis.

  • Brush with fluoride toothpaste and toothbrush with soft bristles twice daily and after every meal when possible. Also, floss once a day daily. This practice helps remove plaque and helps keep the teeth and gums healthy.

  • Daily gargle with mouthwashes or warm saline water to relax gums and decrease gum sensitivity.

  • Limit sweets and sugary foods and beverages. Include healthy foods in the diet like fruits and vegetables, lean meat, whole-grain bread, and low-fat dairy products. Nutrients such as calcium, protein, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, and D, can help the baby's teeth grow healthy.

  • Stop smoking and drinking in pregnancy as it can lead to an underweight baby and affect the unborn baby's dental health.

What Are the Tips to Maintain Good Oral Health in Infants?

Parents should be encouraged to establish a good dental routine for children by 12 months. It should include the following.

  • During the day, do not give a bottle filled with milk or sugary drinks to calm or comfort the baby. Instead, give plain water or a pacifier.

  • Never dip the baby's pacifier in sugary food items, such as sugar, honey, or any other sugary liquid.

  • Avoid putting the baby to bed with a bottle filled with sugary drinks as it increases the risk of tooth decay.

  • Wipe the baby's teeth with a wet cloth or gauze after feeding to remove any bacteria-forming plaque and sugar that might have built up on the teeth and gums.

  • Stop bottle-feeding early to stop the baby from developing dental problems. Instead, try to make the baby drink milk or water from a special cup once they are six months old or when they can sit up and hold things on their own.

  • Counseling regarding non-nutritive oral habits, such as thumb sucking, bruxism, and tongue thrusting, should be done early before any malocclusion occurs.

  • Assessing the infant's risk of developing dental caries and making prevention plans depending on the situation can help prevent the risk of dental problems in infants.

Conclusion:

Oral health is an essential component of overall health. It is also an important part of prenatal care. This is because pregnancy increases the risk of various dental health problems that may lead to complications like premature birth, pre-eclampsia, low birth weight, and other problems. Practicing healthy oral hygiene habits can prevent or lower the risk of oral health problems in expecting mothers and their unborn babies. Oral health problems are also often seen in infants. Therefore, maintenance and awareness are crucial to preventing dental problems in infants.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

How to Take Care of Oral Health During Pregnancy?

Ways to take care of oral health during pregnancy include:
- Brushing the teeth using fluoride-rich toothpaste.
- Using a floss.
- Following a balanced diet and avoiding sugary foods.
- Rining the mouth well after bouts of vomiting.
- Regular visits to the dentist.

2.

What Is the Importance of Oral Health in Pregnancy?

Pregnancy can cause a lot of gum issues in a woman. These gum issues are caused due to fluctuating hormone levels. Poor oral health during pregnancy can harm both the mother and the child.

3.

What Effects Does Poor Oral Health Have on Pregnancy?

Poor oral health in pregnancy can cause:
- Premature delivery.
- Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy).
- Pregnancy gingivitis and granuloma.

4.

Can You Use Mouthwash During Pregnancy?

Using mouthwash is quite safe during pregnancy. It aids in keeping bacterial levels under control. But care should be taken to avoid swallowing the mouthwash. A mouthwash without alcohol content is preferable.

5.

What Happens When You Do Not Brush the Teeth During Pregnancy?

Some women avoid brushing their teeth when pregnant as it may trigger vomiting. Brushing the molars can trigger a gag reflex in some women. When we do not brush our teeth during pregnancy, it may lead to cavities and gum issues which may become difficult to treat.

6.

Is It Safe to Visit a Dentist During Early Pregnancy?

It is safe to visit a dentist at any point during pregnancy. A routine examination will also prevent the occurrence of any infection of the gums and teeth. However, informing the dentist about the pregnancy is advisable as they will take the necessary precautions, like adjusting the chair positions and avoiding X-rays.

7.

How to Maintain Oral Hygiene in Babies?

Oral hygiene can be maintained in babies in the following ways:
- Wipe the gums using a clean cloth or gauze. 
- After the eruption, baby toothbrushes can be used to clean the teeth.
- Avoid putting the baby to sleep with a feeding bottle. 
- Feed the baby a balanced diet.

8.

When Should Oral Hygiene Be Started for Babies?

Dental care for babies can be started as early as three months. The baby’s gum pads can be wiped with a gentle clean cloth or gauze. After the teeth erupt, baby toothbrushes can be used to clean the tooth.

9.

Why Is a Child’s Oral Health Important?

Oral health is vital for overall well-being as this is where digestion begins. Good oral hygiene prevents many oral cavity disorders. It prevents decay formation and other gum issues. A child's oral hygiene habits should be started as early as three months, and brushing should be practiced after the first tooth eruption.
Dr. Paras Angrish
Dr. Paras Angrish

Dentistry

Tags:

oral hygiene maintenanceoral check upsregular brushingoral habitsearly childhood caries
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