When is brushing your teeth not just about freshening your breath? When you’re pregnant.  I think that your dental health may be one of the most overlooked aspects of keeping yourself healthy when you are expecting—and neglecting your teeth can have a pretty serious impact on your pregnancy.  Now, keep in mind that the jury is still out on some of this research, but when you consider what I’m about to explain it will make sense.

When we neglect our teeth, bacteria in and around the gum line will begin to build up—over time as bacteria go to work in places that you may not notice, these tiny invaders have access to not only your teeth, but your body’s blood supply.  As infection develops, periodontal disease can set in, taking on a variety of forms.  No matter how it gets there, these bacteria may find it easy to move throughout your body and trigger inflammation in other places. For men, some research has linked poor oral health to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. In women who are pregnant, the link has connected higher rates of preterm birth, preeclampsia (complicated high blood pressure) and low birth weight babies to periodontal infections.

It can be especially easy to neglect your gums when you are pregnant especially when you consider the increase in blood supply, which may make them more likely to bleed when you brush and floss. It’s normal for this to happen, but it certainly doesn’t mean that you can skimp on your morning tooth routine.  If all that bleeding makes you nauseated, try waiting a bit after you wake up before you brush—giving your body time to overcome those early morning waves of sickness before you add a toothbrush to the mix. Once you have tackled the morning challenge, remember to use a soft toothbrush, and use it gently.  Flossing is still equally important, so do your best to floss daily and brush at least twice a day.

I remember how brushing my teeth automatically triggered a trip to the toilet for my queasy stomach—it never got better and in fact, it was the very first symptom that told me I was pregnant, even before those famous two lines appeared on the stick.

If you don’t already, make a special point to see your dentist every six months, and make an extra effort when you’re pregnant. If you are early in your pregnancy, make sure your dentist knows so that  you can opt-out of any x-rays during your visit.  If you must have any x-rays, your abdomen may be shielded with a lead apron to protect your baby from the rays.