Mothers often receive conflicting information about what is safe and what isn’t safe during pregnancy. To be honest many mothers don’t receive any information about dental care during pregnancy and that is a failure in our healthcare system.
Oral and dental care is so important during pregnancy and does require special attention. Due to hormonal changes during pregnancy women need to be focused on caring or their oral health more than usual. Neglecting oral health during pregnancy doesn’t just lead to things like gingivitis and tooth loss. It can also lead to problems like premature birth, low birth weight infants, and pre-eclampsia. So lets talk about dental care, specifically pregnancy safe toothpaste! In this article you will learn:
- What changes occur during pregnancy that effect oral health?
- Is fluoride safe during pregnancy?
- How can I choose a pregnancy safe toothpaste?
Table of Contents
Why is Dental Care so Important During Pregnancy?
During pregnancy the placenta produces high levels of estrogen and progesterone. This can lead to inflammation and irritation to the gums. Contributing to gingivitis, which is found in 40% of all pregnancies. Gums will become red, swollen, and bleed. This damage to the tissue can lead to systematic periodontal disease that can cause pregnancy complications.
This is why it is so important to continue regular dental care during pregnancy and choose pregnancy safe toothpaste!
Effects of Nausea & Vomiting?
Nausea and vomiting will be seen in 70% of pregnancies. Vomiting increases the acidic environment in the mouth and can affect your normal dental hygiene as it can erode the enamel layer on your teeth. If you are not brushing sufficiently during that time it can lead to serious damage to your teeth.
Other Reasons for Poor Dental Health During Pregnancy?
- Increased bleeding may lead women to brush less. This can lead to increase of bacterial plaque buildup. More mouth care is needed during this time, not less!
- Saliva flow decreases. With the decrease of saliva dental cavities will increase unless your dental care increases.
- Poor nutritional choices. Due to nausea, cravings, or lack of access to health food options can lead to an increase in foods that contribute to poor dental health.
Is Fluoride Safe During Pregnancy?
When it comes to fluoride use in pregnancy there is no clear answer on the safety of it’s use.
In the US we have been adding fluoride to our water systems since the 1940s due to the fact that it was decreasing cavities in children. If you look at efficacy of fluoride use in our water system you will actually see that other countries that don’t put fluoride in their water have also seen a decrease in cavities as well. This could be due to increased use of fluoride treatments in dental work, mouthwash, and toothpaste. So does it also need to be in our water? Maybe not?
Research is sparse in both sides. You can find studies that suggest fluoride use in pregnancy can cause a decrease in IQ for your children and you can find studies to support the use of fluoride. The studies against fluoride use are usually looking at fluoride within water sources and high exposure to fluoride not specifically in our personal care products.
Obviously more studies need to be done before we can say one way or the other. It is really your choice to decide whether you feel comfortable using products with fluoride during your pregnancy. Many natural non toxic products are not putting fluoride in their products.
Fluoride in topical use is designated as a Category B pregnancy risk. This means that there are no human studies but it was determined to be safe for use in animal studies with no fetal risk. That is in the case of things like mouthwash or toothpaste that is not ingested.
If you are unsure speak with your dental provider to discuss the risks and benefits.
How Do You Choose a Pregnancy Safe Toothpaste?
It is important to read the labels on the products that you purchase during pregnancy especially, but I would argue all the time. The things that we put into and on our bodies can pass into our blood stream in a variety of ways, and should be considered when choosing the products we will consume and use.
Ingredients to Avoid
Here are some common problematic ingredients that can often be found in some toothpaste:
- Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate: this is a surfactant that reduces the surface tension between ingredients, which is why it is used as a cleaning and foaming agent in many products. SLS can be very irritating and harmful to our tissues. With gum tissue that is already quite tender during pregnancy this can exacerbate some issues you already have. Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate can also break down into cancer-causing chemicals such as nitrosamines.
- Parabens: These are often placed in products due to their ability to work as preservatives and kill bacteria. However, they are linked to hormone disruption and can lead to decreased fertility, cause harm to reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes, and increase risk of cancer.
- Titanium Dioxide: This is one ingredient that is still questionable. Some research suggests the nanoparticles are able to penetrate your gums and have toxic effects to your brain and cause nerve damage. It is also possibly carcinogenic. So it might be best to avoid products with this ingredient until further research is done.
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEGs): These are petroleum based polymers and have also been linked to endocrine disruption.
- Artificial Colors: AC are going to make the product more colorful, which is really unnecessary. Artificial colors are linked to hyperactivity in children and can cause cancer.
- Saccharin & Sorbitol: These are both artificial sweeteners. Saccharin has been linked to bladder cancer and Sorbitol is also a laxative.
- Triclosan: this is an antibacterial chemical that is toxic and can disrupt your hormones. It reduces thyroid hormones, which can cause negative health outcomes for you and your growing fetus.
- Hydrated silica: this is added to toothpaste to polish and whiten teeth. It has the same particles commonly found in the “Do Not Eat” packets. It is abrasive and can actually damage tooth enamel. It scratches the surface of the tooth and prevents re-mineralization. Over time this can allow bacteria to get into these exposed cracks and cause more damage.
- Carrageenan: it is derived from seaweed but can cause inflammation of the GI tract. Leading to possible cases of ulcers or colon cancer.
- Alcohol: Alcohol is drying and can decrease the amount of saliva in your mouth. Pregnancy hormones already lead to a dryer mouth so we don’t need any help in this department. Saliva is needed to rise out unwanted bacteria that can cause damage to your teeth and gums.
Best Pregnancy Safe Toothpastes
Now that you know what to avoid you can go out and find yourself a toothpaste that will be safe for you and your baby during pregnancy. Like I said before your dental health is really important during pregnancy so we can’t just avoid our toxic toothpastes. We have to find a healthy alternative.
Check out our article about the Best Pregnancy Safe Toothpastes on the market today!
If you need additional insight you can check out the EWG Database to guide you in your decision. They aren’t perfect, but can give you a lot of guidance. Remember to always check the ingredient list before you buy!
Choosing the right toothpaste during pregnancy is so important for you and your baby’s health. Look for toothpaste that is free of harmful chemicals such as parabens, triclosan, and titanium dioxide. And avoid harmful irritants. Opt for natural toothpaste with organic and plant based ingredients that can promote healthy teeth and gums. Always consult with your dentist and/or medical provider if you have any questions about the products you choose. With the right dental care throughout your pregnancy you can feel confident that you are doing the right thing for you and your baby!
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.