A: Good oral hygiene is very important during pregnancy, not just for your own health but for your baby's too. During pregnancy, increased levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen boost circulation, which can cause red, swollen or bleeding gums and increasing the likelihood of plaque buildup. If you're less than vigilant about brushing or flossing, you could develop gingivitis or periodontitis (a more serious form of gum disease), which can cause bone loss over time.
More and more research shows that having oral health problems during pregnancy can also affect your baby's well-being. One study found that women with periodontal disease are four to seven times more likely deliver their babies prematurely than women with healthy gums.
Here's the best way to care for your pearly whites while you're pregnant:
- Brush and floss at least two or three times a day.
- Switch to a softer toothbrush if your gums bleed.
- Don't skip your annual dental checkup. Try to have an exam before you plan to become pregnant or time it during your second trimester. If you're already prone to gum problems, you may need to see the dentist for more frequent pro teeth cleanings.
- Make sure your diet includes plenty of calcium and vitamin C, which help keep your chompers strong. (Taking a prenatal vitamin and calcium supplement should give you enough of these nutrients.)
- Steer clear of teeth-whitening kits and toothpastes while you're expecting. These products contain peroxide, which may be harmful to your baby.