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Pregnancy and Oral Health

Everything You Always Wanted To Know — But Never Knew To Ask

By Dr. Enrique Bimstein and Dr. Joseph Katz


Pregnant woman eating salad.

Healthy Body & Nutrition for Two

A healthy diet is more important than ever during pregnancy, one containing all the essential nutrients: carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and water, and based on the concepts of variety, balance and moderation. Good maternal nutrition is essential for the development of a baby's oral health. Children's primary (baby) teeth begin forming at about the sixth week of pregnancy, and begin mineralizing (forming enamel and dentin) at around the third to fourth month of pregnancy. The mother's diet must be adequate in all nutrients, especially calcium, phosphorous, and protein to facilitate this process. Other guidelines for a healthy pregnancy diet include:

  • Liberal intake of all food groups: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein sources and dairy products;
  • Possible iron supplement (upon doctor's recommendation) to offset iron deficiency common in pregnancy;
  • Sufficient folic acid (from fortified bread, green leafy vegetables and /or supplements) all during a woman's childbearing years to help prevent birth defects.

Nutritional deficits can cause defects in tooth development, and healthy salivary flow and composition. Deficiencies in protein and calories, Vitamins A, C, D and iodine, excesses in fluoride and Vitamin D, have all been shown to affect the development of human teeth.

Fluoride — The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) does not support the use of fluoride supplements for pregnant women. When fluoride levels in community water supplies are suboptimal — less than ideal, (below 0.7 – 1.20 part per million) and after consideration of other sources of dietary fluoride, the AAPD endorses the supplementation of a child's diet with fluoride (after pregnancy).

A healthy diet contains the proper nutrients in the right amounts that your body needs. But that's not the end of it — the next step involves balancing the distribution and use of those nutrients within the body. A good exercise plan and plenty of rest and sleep are also crucial to that balance.

If snacking, choose foods that are nutritious for mother and baby such as raw fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

Pregnancy “Cravings” and Tooth Decay — It is not uncommon for women not only to become nauseated by certain tastes and smells, but also to develop cravings for others. These urges are normal and understandable, but it is important to remember that frequent ingestion of sugary and starchy snacks between meals can lead to dental decay and should be avoided, or at minimum kept to mealtimes. If snacking, choose foods that are nutritious for mother and baby such as raw fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

The Calcium Myth Dispelled — Calcium is needed for healthy bones and teeth formation. The calcium your baby needs is provided by your diet, not by your teeth. If there is insufficient dietary calcium however, your body will provide this mineral from calcium stored in your bones. The primary source of calcium is provided by an adequate intake of dairy products or from recommended dietary supplements. It is a myth that calcium is lost from the mother's teeth during pregnancy. Once formed, teeth do not change, unlike bone, which is constantly changing and “remodeling.”

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