During pregnancy, the mouth matters

If you’re pregnant, or thinking about getting pregnant, I bet one of the last things on your mind is what’s going on in your mouth. You’re worrying about getting time off work and finding childcare. You’re thinking about prenatal visits, the baby’s room, and why you’re so tired all of the time. You’re wondering if it’s a boy or girl, whether you’ll still be sexy after the baby is born, and how you are going to manage with a new little one in your life.

You’re thinking about eating right and taking prenatal vitamins, like your doctor recommended, but you’re not thinking about your oral health.

But here’s the deal: during pregnancy, the mouth matters.

According to the Children’s Dental Health Project, research shows that a woman’s oral health during pregnancy is a good predictor of her newborn’s risk for tooth decay. (Tooth decay can lead to cavities, if it’s not taken care of.) If a mother has the kind of bacteria in her mouth that cause tooth decay, she can pass the bacteria on to her baby. That’s one of the main reasons children end up with cavities later on.

If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, here are four things the Children’s Dental Health Projects recommends you can do to give your newborn a healthy start:

  1. Make an appointment with your dentist or keep your regular dental appointment if you already have one set up.Getting a dental exam will help you identify any oral health problems so you can get treatment or guidance if you need it.
  2. Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.It’s especially important to brush your teeth right before you go to bed because the saliva (spit) in your mouth helps to fight tooth decay. (Your mouth produces less saliva at night, so your teeth are more vulnerable to cavity-causing bacteria.)
  3. Drink tap water every day.Many communities in Maine add fluoride to drinking water, which makes tap water a good choice. If you get your water from a well, talk to your doctor about how to get enough fluoride to protect your teeth. (Many brands of bottled water have little or no fluoride.) Avoid or limit sodas, energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster, and other sugary drinks.
  4. Talk to your dentist or doctor about ways to prevent or manage any dental problems. Tooth decay is preventable. Even when the decay process has started, there are ways to prevent it from progressing to the point of forming a cavity.

Finding a dentist or paying for it is a challenge in Maine, but there may be help. Talk to your doctor at your next prenatal visit about how to take care of your mouth. Remind your doctor that dental care is safe and important during pregnancy.

Help your child get off to a good start by taking care of your own oral health during pregnancy. That’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about while you’re waiting for the baby to come!


Alison Webb

About Alison Webb

Alison Webb is a public health consultant with over 20 years experience in community outreach, grassroots organizing, implementing and evaluating evidence-based programs, and advocating for healthy policies at the Maine State Legislature. Alison is especially interested in what science tells us about promoting health and wellness and how we can apply that to live well in Maine. The blog describes recent public health research and give readers insights into how to use that knowledge to lead healthy lives.