October is National Dental Hygiene Month, which is sponsored by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA). So it only seemed logical to focus on oral health for our last post of the month. Yes, today’s post is partially inspired by the candy that is so tempting during and directly after Halloween, not to mention the beautiful sugar skulls that are part of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. But it’s also inspired by the importance of dental health for moms-to-be, both before and during pregnancy.
Brushing, flossing and regular cleaning is important for all women since problems with your teeth and gums can affect the health of your entire body. It’s even more important before and during pregnancy, including for these reasons:
- Gum disease and other dental problems can affect the health of a pregnancy, increasing the risk for both having a baby early (preterm) and giving birth to a baby that is too small (low birth weight).
- The changing hormone levels that occur with pregnancy can actually make some dental problems worse.
- If a woman’s mouth is healthy before and during pregnancy, it’s likely that her baby will be born with a healthy mouth too.
Tips for Better Dental Health
Here are some dental health tips from Every Woman California.
- Visit a dentist at least once a year, or as often as the dentist recommends, for cleaning, exam and protective treatments, such as fluoride and dental sealants.
- Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and a soft toothbrush at least two times every day, especially before bed.
- Floss your teeth every day.
- Limit foods and drinks containing sugar to mealtimes only. Don’t drink juice, soda or carbonated drinks, including diet soda, between meals. Juices and sodas contain sugar that can cause tooth decay (cavities). Even diet sodas contain acids that can weaken the outer surface of your teeth.
- If you use chewing gum or candies, choose brands that are sugarless. Those containing xylitol are best and can help protect your teeth. Xylitol can actually help decrease the amount of harmful bacteria in your mouth that cause tooth decay.
- Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.
What should you do if you don’t have dental insurance?
Despite the fact that a healthy mouth plays an important role in overall health, the Affordable Care Act doesn’t include dental coverage. And dental care can be very expensive. Fortunately, if you live in San Francisco, there are many sources of free and low-cost dental care, and the San Francisco Health Plan (Healthy SF) does cover some services. Click here for a recently updated list of low-cost dental providers from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
How do you brush your teeth?
According to the ADHA, brushing and flossing regularly is the best thing that you can do to keep your mouth healthy. Are you doing it correctly? The video below provides a great “how to.” For more tips, click here to go to the ADHA website.