There are probably few groups of people as inquisitive about healthy practices as expectant moms. They seek out information everywhere—including here at the Dental Health Society. One question we hear a lot is about what toothpaste to use when pregnant. Some are concerned about safety. Others find that brushing makes them nauseous. There are alternatives that can help, and practical answers for other dental care issues that are on new moms’ minds.
Don’t Ignore Oral Care During Pregnancy
Expecting moms strive for a healthy pregnancy, and that should include good dental health too. Pregnancy is not a good time to stop taking care of your teeth. The American Academy of Family Physicians cites poor dental health as correlated with increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight for babies. And according to the Mayo Clinic, can also contribute to heart and cardiovascular issues, sinus infections, and even strokes. If anything, women who are pregnant should be extra vigilant about their oral hygiene.
But pregnancy can make keeping up with dental health more complicated. Here are some remedies to the issues experienced by some moms as they await their bundles of joy.
Pregnancy Dilemma #1: “The Taste (or Smell) of Toothpaste Makes Me Sick”
Changes in the senses of taste and smell are just a few of the many things that pregnancy can change. Many report craving food they never liked before. On the flip side, flavors or smells they once found delicious can now make them sick to their stomachs. Some mothers find the strong mint of most toothpaste products overwhelming. The urge to skip brushing altogether for a while might be tempting.
Try This: For some women, switching to a non-mint flavor can work. Flavors like cinnamon watermelon, orange, and lemon are available from brands such as Tom’s of Maine, Hello, Red Seal, and even Colgate and Crest. Options marketed for children and toddlers sometimes offer a variety of the same flavors in milder concentrations, or no flavor at all.
If switching up the flavor still doesn’t provide relief, there is toothpaste that is completely flavor-free. Try Cleure, Jack n Jill, or oraNurse brands.
Pregnancy Dilemma #2: Brushing Makes Me Gag
Anyone who has experienced morning sickness knows it’s not always restricted to the A.M. Many pregnant women struggle with a heightened gag reflex. Brushing teeth, especially the molars in the back, can cause dry heaving or even vomiting. When you know something is bound to make you sick, it’s tempting to skip it.
Try this: Some people find that distracting themselves from the action that’s nauseating them can help. Try a diversion like watching television, singing along (in your head) with a favorite song, or even counting floor tiles or standing on one foot while brushing. When your focus is on something completely unrelated to what you’re doing, it might be easier to get through it.
If you do get sick, remember that stomach acid can be very hard on teeth. Rinse your mouth out with water right away. Wait a 15-30 minutes to let saliva neutralize the acids naturally, then brush your teeth.
Pregnancy Dilemma #3: My Gums Are Swollen
Everyone knows that pregnancy changes a woman’s body and that their ankles and feet can become swollen and uncomfortable. Swelling can also happen to a pregnant woman’s gums. Expectant mothers are actually more susceptible to some oral health issues such as gingivitis which can present as red, sensitive gums.
Try this: Switching to a softer toothbrush and toothpaste for sensitive teeth can help with the discomfort of brushing when gums are sore. Gum disease can be a serious condition, so a dentist should be consulted if the issue persists. In some cases, periodontal scaling or root planing could be necessary.
Paying special attention to one’s diet during pregnancy can make a difference for teeth and gums, as well as overall health. Vitamins A, vitamin D, and calcium contribute to good oral health.
Pregnancy Dilemma #4: Are My Cravings Harming My Teeth?
Eating right is essential for a healthy pregnancy, but some expectant moms worry about all the new things they crave. Eating for two sometimes means indulging in treats that might be passed up any other time.
Pregnant women should be aware of how their cravings could affect their teeth and gums. For example, a newfound love of gooey caramels or crunchy peanut brittle might cause dental problems. Extra care must be taken to remove sticky foods from teeth, or cavities and gum disease could result. (Read our article from National Candy Month to learn how to indulge wisely.)
Try this: When it comes to candy or ice cream, opt for treats that rinse off the teeth naturally with saliva. Things like plain chocolate candy bars will melt away on their own, while nuts and caramels will stick, giving tooth decay time to start. It’s also a good idea to drink water after sweet snacks to wash away particles until you have a chance to brush properly.
Pregnancy Dilemma #5: Are My Usual Dental Products Safe for My Baby?
Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish clear scientifically-based advice from rumor or opinion. Expectant mothers, especially, are bombarded with information about what they should and should not do. Moms wonder about the ingredients in dental products and if ingesting them even in small amounts could harm their unborn babies. The most common concerns are about fluoride and alcohol. The American Dental Association has determined that fluoride is a safe and effective way to prevent cavities for everyone, including pregnant women. They recommend drinking fluoridated water and using fluoride toothpaste.
Abstaining from alcohol is a common practice for pregnant women, and many choose to remove it from their dental hygiene routine as well. Many brands of mouthwash do contain some alcohol.
It’s important to remember that very little fluoride or alcohol is ingested when a pregnant woman uses dental products that contain them. Even less makes its way to the baby through the placenta.
Try this: There are toothpaste and mouthwash products on the market without fluoride or alcohol for people who are still concerned. Some of the same brands that offer mint-free products also have fluoride and alcohol-free options, as well as Burt’s Bees and Arm & Hammer. CloSYS Mouthwash has no alcohol. Listerine also has an alcohol-free option.
Pregnancy Dilemma #6: I’m Too Tired to Brush and Floss
Growing a baby is hard work—it’s no wonder that expectant mothers are exhausted. It’s tempting to crawl into bed each night without taking care of the usual oral hygiene routine. Regular brushing and flossing is an essential part of maintaining healthy teeth and gums and should never be ignored.
Try this: If it’s hard to stay awake before bed to brush and floss, try changing the schedule. Take care of the nighttime routine right after dinner or after you finish a nighttime snack. Once it’s out of the way for the evening, you’re free to doze off whenever you want.
Good Dental Health is Important for Mom and Baby
At a time when every healthy choice matters to both mother and baby, it’s important for expectant moms to take care of their dental health too. Before long, your baby will be visiting the dentist for the first time themselves. The foundation you build now can affect their oral health for years to come.