By Dr. Tony Mendicino, DDS, Chief Dental Officer and Tricia Marmontello, Clinical Operations Manager, Finger Lakes Community Health, an independent health care organization with 8 health centers in the region.
The answer is yes! Though most women wouldn’t think of skipping a medical appointment during their pregnancy, they may think going to the dentist is less important. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. According to postpartum survey data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System in 10 states:
• 56% of mothers did not have dental care
• 60% did not have their teeth cleaned during their most recent pregnancy
• 59% of women did not receive any counseling about oral health during pregnancy
Would it surprise you to know that nearly 60 to 75% of pregnant women have gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease that occurs when the gums become red and swollen from inflammation? Gingivitis can be aggravated by changing hormones during pregnancy (Center for Disease Control, CDC).
Is it safe to get dental care during your pregnancy?
Often, we find women are unsure about the safety of oral care during pregnancy — even getting their teeth cleaned. According to the CDC, regular and emergency dental care is safe at any stage of pregnancy, therefore women are encouraged to seek routine dental care. In fact, morning sickness and hormonal changes can make you more prone to gum disease and cavities. With morning sickness, it is better to rinse your mouth with one teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water rather than brushing.
If you’re unsure, please ask your OB/GYN or medical provider, but at Finger Lakes Community Health we provide dental care to pregnant women at all stages of their pregnancy. We know that 1 in 4 women of childbearing age has untreated cavities. Women who have a lot of cavity-causing bacteria during pregnancy and after delivery could transmit these bacteria from their mouth to the mouth of their baby according to the CDC.
The bottom line is that good oral health is essential to good general health. That’s even more important when you’re pregnant. Keep in mind that if you have Medicaid Insurance, dental care is covered when you’re pregnant. In addition, when you pick your pediatrician, you should also pick your child’s dentist.
Caring for your new baby’s teeth
Your healthy baby is here. What a joy! Now how can you keep their teeth healthy even before they appear? Whether you breast or bottle feed, be sure to wipe your baby’s gums with a soft wet cloth after each feeding and before bedtime. You should also keep taking care of your own oral health and avoid cleaning pacifiers with your mouth. That’s how cavity-causing bacteria are spread.
And what about teething? Try to soothe your teething baby by rubbing their gums with a clean finger or allowing them to chew on a clean, moist washcloth. You can also ask your doctor to recommend a safe teething ring.
Babies often fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth. If this happens, try to wipe their gums with a soft, clean cloth before you put them down. This helps wipe away sugar and bacteria that together can cause cavities. Avoid putting juice in your baby’s bottle and never put your baby down with milk in their bottle.
When do I start brushing my child’s teeth?
Begin brushing as soon as the first tooth appears. Be sure to brush twice a day using a small smear of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice or just wet the toothbrush.
Your baby should see a dentist after their first tooth appears, but no later than their first birthday.
Are baby teeth important?
Though baby teeth may be small, they are important. They act as placeholders for adult teeth. Without a healthy set of baby teeth, your child will have trouble chewing, smiling, and speaking clearly. That’s why caring for your baby’s teeth and keeping them decay-free is so important. By starting early, your baby will get used to the daily routine.