It is ideal to get a dental health check when you decide to plan a baby. The best approach would be to prepare yourself and your body for the intense period you are about to go through
By Dr Diksha Batra
Welcoming a newborn into the world can be an overwhelming experience both physically and emotionally. As you embark on the journey of motherhood, it’s important to be healthy and that involves even your oral health. Just as you have doctor visits for prenatal checkups, it’s also important to visit your dentist for prenatal dental care. Your dentist can help explain changes in oral health during pregnancy and what to look for.
Most mothers do not realise the impact of their oral health and hygiene on their pregnancy and eventually their child’s oral health. I am often asked as to when must a child first visit the dentist. The common answer that people assume is 6 months to one year, or when the teeth erupt. But the child must visit the dentist even before they are born and sometimes even before they are conceived!
Prenatal care includes the oral care of the child and mother, and this applies even more to mothers who have suffered from multiple dental problems — from cavities to gum disease.
Critical moments of prenatal dental care
It is ideal to get a dental health check when you decide to plan a baby. The best approach would be to prepare yourself and your body for the intense period you are about to go through. Your focus over the next year or so will be the baby, so a mother should be in the best state of health she can be.
At this stage, there are no restrictions on medications, X-ray imaging, or even the duration of procedures or types of treatment. It is ideal to understand the link between your oral health and that of your baby’s at this point.
Married women who are at an expectant age can be unaware of their status, so must always be asked and treated with caution on X-ray imaging and unnecessary medications.
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If you skipped a dental visit in the planning phase or didn’t really have a problem with your dental health to begin with, a dental visit after you have conceived becomes essential. At this time, there may be restrictions to treatments, medications and your movements, especially in the first and last trimesters. The second trimester, however, is deemed safe for treating any dental problems, even root canals or small surgeries if required. This period is the safest and it is at this time that we must remove all decay, bacteria and gum disease, and bring the expectant mother’s mouth to a state of optimum health.
Decay causing bacteria and those implicated in gum disease have been linked to low birth weight babies. They also predispose the baby to have a higher tendency to develop decay when they’re growing. A mother must realise she is really brushing for two and her oral hygiene at this point determines her child’s dental health and future.
Anything that may trigger in the coming months right up to the initial nursing phase when the mother may not be able to visit the clinic, must be dealt with.
It is important, however, to remember that no X-ray imaging, certain antibiotics or pain medication be given at this stage. Keeping the appointment short and pain-free is ideal to the comfort of the mother. It may be a good idea to involve and inform the obstetrician for any major dental work and obtain a consent.
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Prenatal home care
Once you have fixed major issues then you must be able to maintain this throughout pregnancy and after. Follow these simple steps:
* Eat a tooth-friendly diet: Your baby’s teeth begin to develop during the second trimester and what you eat greatly affects the growth of your unborn child. Consuming a variety of nutritious foods is a vital part of prenatal care. A healthy diet includes dairy products, including cheese and yogurt. These are sources of calcium and essential minerals that are good for the teeth, gums and bones. Include a lot of vitamin C, calcium, vitamin B12 in your diet with supplements or green leafy vegetables.
* Morning sickness remedies: Mothers who suffer from this must be careful to brush after every episode of vomiting and ensure using a bland toothpaste. The acidic nature of the vomit can damage the teeth if not cleaned.
* Keep up with daily care: Even if you may not have taken your dental hygiene seriously till this point, you must now do it, as you are responsible for your baby’s tooth development. Brushing twice daily with a soft brush is no longer optional, but mandatory. Cleaning between teeth with the help of a water flosser or regular floss can be done to ensure no plaque residues. As you may be highly susceptible to plaque and bacteria in this phase.
* Visit your dentist at the slightest sign of bleeding, pain or even discoloration of teeth.
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Infant’s dental visit
Some believe prenatal dental care ends at childbirth, but it can extend up to the child’s first dental visit at the stage in which their first tooth erupts. At this point, both the mother and the child must be examined. The infant’s dental exam is only to familiarize them with the surroundings and teach the mother hygiene practices for the infant’s mouth. The mother’s dental exam is to ensure treating any problems that had to be delayed due to pregnancy.
Pregnancy also causes hormonal changes that increase your risk of developing gum disease. These changes also can affect the health of your developing baby. They should be taken care of by your infant’s dental visit. By making this session compulsory, we allow the mother to take time to actually look after her dental health as well. The great responsibility of a baby can make a new mother prone to dental problems as they pay less attention to themselves.
(The writer is a prosthodontist and implantologist with a decade of experience in pain-free dentistry. She is also the author of an e-book ‘Let’s Reset: Pandemic Proofing Your Dental Practice’)
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