Preventative care is the best way to prevent tooth decay, and at no point is prevention and good nutrition more important than during pregnancy since the development of your unborn baby depends on it. However, nausea, vomiting, cravings and aversions can make keeping up with a healthy diet difficult, especially in the early months. Your baby's teeth will start forming in the second month of pregnancy, which makes the dietary supply of calcium, phosphorous and adequate protein mandatory. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to defects in salivary formation and flow and tooth mineralization.
It isn't uncommon for expectant mothers to have a cocktail of supplements at hand to complement dietary intake. However, there are a number of misunderstandings relating to pregnancy dietary habits and their role in development of baby's teeth. Read on to learn about them.
1. Fluoride supplementation can give baby stronger teeth
Some mothers may take fluoride supplements with the mind that the additional fluoride will help improve their baby's teeth and protect from decay, but this is poorly studied and not proven to work. Supplementation with fluoride may not necessarily make tooth enamel stronger since fluoride works by changing the chemical composition of already-formed-and-erupted teeth to make them more cavity-resistant. Instead expectant mothers may consider dietary fluoride supplementation for their child after weaning and in early childhood once the teeth are fully formed and erupted.
2. Baby's calcium comes from mother's teeth
Calcium is one of the most important minerals for formation of strong bones and teeth in unborn babies. Contrary to popular belief, your unborn baby's calcium is not supplied by calcium from your teeth. Teeth do not change once formed. Instead the body supplies calcium from your diet. In case of insufficient calcium, your body will demineralize calcium stored in your bones to supplement dietary calcium for the baby. This is why calcium supplementation is necessary if you don't think you're getting enough calcium from your diet in pregnancy. Otherwise, you risk losing bone density and the old-age complications that come with that, such as osteoporosis.
3. Pregnancy cravings have no effect on baby's health
One of the most common pregnancy symptoms is craving certain foods and being averse to others. These are normal urges, but care must be taken to ensure your oral health isn't affected by your cravings. This is especially important if you crave starchy or sugary snacks. Ingestion of such foods can cause tooth decay, so you should try to minimise this. Alternatively, ensure that you brush your teeth right after or rinse with plenty of water if you're not at home.
Mothers with tooth decay will have a greater concentration of decay-causing bacteria, increasing the chances of passing them to their babies soon after birth. Poor oral hygiene can also increase your chances of developing gum disease, since your gums are more sensitive during pregnancy. Left untreated, gum disease has been linked to low birth weights and preterm delivery. If you have questions about the health of the interior of your teeth, don't hesitate to contact an endodontist.
By maintaining a proper diet and oral health routine, you can start to ensure your child's teeth will be healthy well before they're even born.