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Prenatal Oral Health

Prenatal Oral Health

By Pam Henderson

It was an end of an era for my family this week. After 12 years, we had our final orthodontist appointment – my younger daughter got her braces off. Any parent who has endured the consultations, Phase I and Phase II, mid-afternoon visits every 6 weeks, broken wires, tearing the house apart looking for the misplaced fox-size and rabbit-size elastic bands and wax strips and taken side trips to the oral surgeon for extractions, can appreciate the magnitude of this occasion. Honestly, I’m going to miss my 30 minutes of solitude in the waiting room reading the People magazine book reviews. For all of the adolescents who endured being called “Tinsel Teeth” or were denied the joys of things like bubble gum and caramel apples, their pay back is blinding – a pearly white killer smile.

Good oral health is imperative for anyone, especially for those donning braces. The metal wires and brackets create as many nooks and crannies as an English muffin for food particles and sugar bugs to take cover. Actually, long before a child gets braces, has teeth, or is even born, good oral health is important. Babies can get infections in their mouth even before they have teeth. How is that so?

Good oral health begins with the mother prenatally. Without good oral health, tooth decay can occur. Tooth decay is an infection, and you likely already know how important it is for pregnant women to avoid any infection during pregnancy.

The American Dental Association explained in a May, 2011 article that the hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy can affect a mother’s dental health. She is more likely to develop gingivitis during pregnancy (you’ve likely seen the nasty photos in the dentist’s office showcasing the swelling and tenderness of gingivitis sufferers.) Gingivitis affects the tissues surrounding teeth and can progress to advanced diseases and tooth loss.

Pregnant women especially need to practice good daily care for their teeth. According to Southshore Skipping Stones, an area dental health foundation aiming to educate expectant parents about good dental health, pregnant women are more prone to tooth decay due to their dietary changes and morning sickness. They can spread the infection to their baby simply through a kiss.

The dental experts of Skipping Stones recommend that after a bout of morning sickness, an expectant mother should rinse her mouth with water. Avoid brushing immediately after because the acid can strip off tooth enamel. Water may also be mixed with a teaspoon of baking soda and swished around the mouth. This solution helps to neutralize the stomach acid. More information about prenatal oral health is available at Southshore Skipping Stones’ website, http://www.southshoreskippingstones.org/

Brushing twice each day with a fluoride toothpaste is essential. Flossing daily and using a rinse further protect a pregnant mother’s teeth. Of course, at your appointment be sure to let your dentist know that you are pregnant. There may be precautions to take regarding medicines and x-rays. And, if you haven’t been to the dentist in awhile, pregnancy is a great reason to work toward proper dental health. The Southshore Skipping Stones website has information about area dentists.

And, to think that you worried about dirt being the dirtiest thing in your child’s mouth.