Pregnancy and Dental Health

After being away for two months on maternity leave, I thought I should write about pregnancy and dental health while it's fresh in my mind!

While it's important to be cautious about elective treatment during your pregnancy, it is certainly more important to be preventive. Routine cleanings are imperative to remove harmful oral bacteria that is correlated with low birth weight. It's alarming that the gums can bleed so severely with pregnancy gingivitis making the old wives' tale "gain a child, lose a tooth" seem like the truth. Flossing helps remove the plaque that sparks an inflammatory process responsible for bleeding gums. I tell my pregnant patients to floss twice a day--once for Mama and once for Baby. It's a responsibility that should be taken seriously. 

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As a dentist, I floss all the time. I'm not sure if that's why my babies were gigantic at birth. My first was 10 pounds and my second was nearly 11 pounds!

The Secret to a Healthy Smile

When I meet people at a social event or dinner party, they all want to know what the secret is to a healthy smile. 

Dental Diet 

One of my favorite topics is food. I love to eat out or eat in. Burgers and fries, steak and eggs, peppery arugula salads, an entire bag of chips, berries, chocolate, coffee, tea, wine--all of the above. What damages teeth is acid. Carbohydrates, when digested by the enzymes in our saliva, feed cavity-producing bacteria which metabolize these sugars into acid. Even natural sugars from fruit are culprits. Organic foods? You'll get organic cavities. Carbonated beverages with or without sugar have a low acidic pH that destroys enamel. Fermented foods like wine and vinaigrettes decalcify our teeth. 

So what's a food lover to do?

                                                                                                    Carrot cake with a glass of milk at Keen's 

                                                                                                   Carrot cake with a glass of milk at Keen's 

Eat all you want in one go. In other words, don't snack and have just a little here and there all day long. If you want it, eat it. Eat as much of it as you want, brush or rinse, and don't have it again. The reasoning behind this is that every time you eat something, the acidity in your mouth increases within the first 30 minutes of consumption. During this time your teeth are vulnerable to attack. This is the time to brush or rinse or chew sugarless gum to get the saliva flow to neutralize the acids in your mouth. If you stop right there, you'll be okay; but if you continue to snack all day long, you're putting your mouth through a roller coaster ride of high acidity every time you snack. 

So although I love foods that might not be good for your teeth (bananas are high on the list with natural sugars and a stickiness that prolongs the contact time on your teeth), I try to keep it to a minimum and when I do eat them, I'll pop a piece of sugarless gum immediately after eating if I don't have the opportunity to brush. Gum chewing promotes more salivary flow. More saliva means less acid. 

Dental products with fluoride are key weapons against tooth decay. I use a fluoride rinse every night before bedtime. Fluoride strengthens enamel, making it more difficult for acids to attack and penetrate. There's been a long debate about fluoride and we can discuss this ad nauseam, but the bottom line is that it helps in fighting tooth decay. Remember that some of our teeth have been in there since we were 6 years old. Enamel doesn't get stronger over time. It takes more effort to maintain the same level of health as we age. Without any effort, there's a natural decline in the health of our teeth. 

Diligent Maintenance

Getting your teeth and gums cleaned and checked at least twice a year ensures that any problems are detected as early as possible. In the article "7 Reasons Why We Avoid the Dentist" (, I mention that early diagnosis means easier treatment. Avoid the dentist and it can lead to much more extensive treatment. So getting your teeth professionally cleaned and checked gives you a progress report on how you're taking care of your teeth. On a daily basis, I can't stress enough the importance of flossing. Most people don't have a problem brushing their teeth at least twice a day. A study showed that college students who only flossed had better oral hygiene than those who only brushed! Flossing removes the oral bacteria hiding in between and under the gums--areas your toothbrush can never reach. Without removing this bacteria, you are at risk for gum disease. Gum disease begins as bleeding gums, bone loss around the roots of the teeth, looseness of the teeth, and ends in the eventual loss of teeth. It's easy to think that it will never happen to you but every day counts. So try to floss every day. Just do it!


Stress can affect the way we use our teeth. Teeth are for chewing so if you catch yourself using them for anything but eating you are applying too much pressure on your teeth. Gritting your teeth together during the day and unknowingly during your sleep can cause cracked teeth. 

Things that we can do to minimize the damage that stress can cause on our teeth is to be aware of our behavior during the day. It's probably just as difficult as breaking any bad habit, but a conscientious effort to reduce daytime clenching will help. Wearing a nightguard can prevent damage to your teeth since you aren't aware of what you're doing during your sleep. Additional things like avoiding caffeine can decrease unnecessary stimulating effects on your body, especially when you're trying to rest. Finally, exercise is a great way to reduce your stress levels!

My favorite dental saying is,

If you aren't true to your teeth, 

they'll be false to you.

Follow these recommendations and you will be on your way to a healthy smile!