It must be a slow news day when someone taking offense to a state trooper in a generally unremarkable exchange becomes noteworthy.
It began when the trooper, Thomas Manning, pulled over an Indiana mom for speeding. Noticing her bad teeth and anxious behavior, he asked – perhaps not tactfully but not menacingly, either – “When did you start smoking meth?”
“I’ve never smoked meth in my life,” [Stephanie] Foltz replied.
“What happened to your teeth?” [Trooper Thomas] Manning said.
“Childbirth,” Foltz said.
She went on to explain that a developing fetus will “take calcium out of your body and the first place it comes from is teeth.”
That’s a surprisingly common belief. It’s also not true. The baby gets its calcium – and other nutrients – through the mother’s diet, not her living organs.
But just because it’s a myth doesn’t mean that pregnancy doesn’t have an impact on oral health.
- Surging hormones and changes in salivary pH make the gums much more vulnerable to disease.
- Vomiting (due to morning sickness) can contribute to enamel erosion, leaving the teeth more vulnerable to decay.
- Dietary changes may raise or lower these risks, depending on overall diet composition.
Typically, we see dental problems emerge by the second month of pregnancy.
Importantly, it’s not just the mother who is affected by her oral health status. Over the years, science has shown that poor oral health may contribute to pre-term birth and low birth weight. It can raise risk of ear infections, birth abnormalities, behavioral difficulties, developmental complications, asthma and even infant death.
Suffice it to say that it’s important for women to ramp up their dental care during times of pregnancy. The basics?
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. Use toothpaste that contains no fluoride, triclosan, SLS or titanium dioxide.
- Rinse nightly with an alcohol-free, herbal antimicrobial mouthwash such as Natural Dentist Healthy Gums Mouth Rinse.
- If you vomit, thoroughly rinse your mouth with water first, then brush your teeth. To further help neutralize acids, you can add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water.
- Dental care – including “routine” cleaning – is perfectly acceptable during pregnancy, though best done during the second trimester. With proper safety procedures, digital x-rays and local anesthetics are safe throughout pregnancy. Emergency care is always acceptable.
- Eat a healthful, varied, nutrient-rich diet. Avoid or minimize intake of added sugars and refined carbohydrates.
In short, do what you should always be doing – only more so, due to the particular changes pregnancy brings. Not only will you be keeping your mouth healthy; you’ll be setting the stage for your child to have a healthy mouth, as well – the foundation of good overall health and well-being.
As for Ms. Foltz, she further complained to the trooper,
You’re judging me on the way my mouth looks. I’ve never done drugs in my entire life! Never! I smoke cigarettes. That’s the worst I do. I don’t even drink. And you’re telling me that you don’t believe me because my teeth aren’t as – [unintelligible] I don’t have a good smile like every other female in the world. But I don’t do drugs.
Actually, nicotine is a drug. Let’s hope she at least stopped using it during her two pregnancies. Smoking’s no help for babies – or teeth – either.