Seventy percent of women have morning sickness during their first trimester of pregnancy, according to the March of Dimes. What does morning sickness have to do with dental health? Morning sickness can expose the expectant mother's teeth to decay-causing stomach acid.
Luckily, you can reduce these risks and maintain a healthy smile throughout your pregnancy. Take a look at the top tips for preventing morning sickness–related dental dilemmas.
The acidic environment of your mouth after vomiting leads to enamel erosion. This erosion can cause yellowing of the teeth (where the dentin shows through), increase sensitivity, and give cavity-causing bacteria an easy entry point. In its most extreme form, acid erosion can open the mouth up to serious abscess infections.
While morning sickness (vomiting) bouts are the peak time for enamel erosion, some of the stomach acid can stay in the mouth. This results in a near-constant bathing of the teeth with the dental destroyer — especially if your have severe or constant morning sickness.
Rinsing your mouth after a morning sickness bout can reduce the acidity and decrease the risk of decay or erosion. Even though you may be tempted to swish with a minty mouthwash, consistent use of alcohol-packed dental products can dry the mouth. Without an adequate amount of saliva to wash away decay-causing bacteria, dental caries can develop.
Instead of alcohol-containing products, rinse with plain tap water, a mixture of one teaspoon of baking soda with one cup of water, or an alcohol-free mouthwash.
Rinse your post-morning sickness mouth before doing anything else. This allows you to remove some (or most) of the stomach acid before brushing. If you brush immediately after vomiting, the scrubbing action of the bristles may damage the already acid-eroded enamel.
Choose an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste. This type of toothpaste will help to strengthen your teeth and protect them from further decay.
Avoid whitening toothpastes — even if the erosion causes slight yellowing of your teeth. While there's no conclusive proof that whitening or bleaching agents can negatively impact your pregnancy, using caution with any chemical that enters the body is recommended. A baking soda–water mix can safely remove some of the stains and neutralize the acid.
Gum and mints are go-to products when it comes to covering unpleasant mouth odors. While these products will give you minty fresh breath, they can also bathe your teeth and gums in a steady stream of sugar.
Sugar is a top cavity-causer. The constant presence of it feeds the bacteria in your mouth, leading to dental decay and disease. Carefully read the label on mints or gum that you choose to use. Sugar-free gum or mints may reduce the cavity risk but may contain chemicals that your pregnant body doesn't need.
Instead of hiding bad morning sickness breath with gum or mints, consider a natural method. Parsley and yogurt are two known odor-fighting foods. If you do choose yogurt, avoid high-sugar flavored varieties. These will only add to the chance of developing decay.
Choose Food Wisely
Crackers, toast, and other similar bland carb-rich foods can help to quiet the effects of morning sickness. These foods, along with sugar-packed ginger ale or other sodas, can increase the likelihood of developing dental decay.
If these foods or beverages help your morning sickness, continue eating/drinking them. Choose the lowest-carb or reduced-sugar versions to reduce the plaque-causing potential. After eating or drinking, rinse your mouth with fresh water, a baking soda-water mixture (in the same quantities that you would use for a post-vomiting rinse) or alcohol-free mouthwash.
Regular dental care is part of a healthy pregnancy routine. Do you need a new dentist or to schedule a check-up? Contact Royal Oak Dental for more information.