If you’re expecting a baby, you’ve probably talked with your doctor about the value of eating a good diet. Making every bite count can help you feel healthy and energized while supporting your child’s growth and development.
What you eat can also reduce your risks for dental concerns during pregnancy — a time when changing hormone levels may affect your teeth and gums. Bonus: your baby’s teeth will benefit from a healthy prenatal diet, too!
Prenatal nutrition and your baby’s dental health
Did you know that your baby’s teeth begin to form during the first trimester of pregnancy? Many parents are surprised to hear that infants are born with all 20 primary teeth in place under their gums.
This is just one reason your doctor encourages you to eat a diet rich in nutrients that support healthy tooth development as your baby grows.
If you’re curious about your child’s first teeth, when they emerge and why they matter, here are helpful tips.
What does a mouth-healthy diet look like during pregnancy?
Overall, your pregnancy diet will follow the same guidelines recommended for all adults. The latest advice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests:
- Choosing nutrient-dense foods and beverages that fit your personal preferences, your cultural traditions and your budget.
- Getting the nutrients you need mainly through foods (though prenatal supplements may be recommended to help you get enough of certain key nutrients).
- Looking for choices that have little or no added sugar, saturated fat or sodium and avoid alcohol.
The MyPlate.gov plan is an easy way to plan healthy, satisfying meals when you’re expecting. Visit MyPlate.gov for insights on pregnancy and nutrition, plus an online tool you can use to create a custom eating plan.
Be sure to get enough of these key nutrients
When you’re expecting, you may notice your gums are more tender. Some people develop pregnancy gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease. Taking extra-good care of your teeth and mouth and eating nutrient-dense foods can make a healthy difference. Be sure to:
- Eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin C, such as strawberries, oranges and kiwi. This vitamin supports your immune system, strengthens blood vessels and supports collagen production (which are all good for your gums).
- Add foods that deliver beta-carotene, like sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cantaloupe or winter squash. Your body converts this nutrient to vitamin A, another ally in keeping your mouth healthy.
- Look for good sources of omega-3 such as nuts, seeds, fish, brussels sprouts or soy-based products, which help regulate inflammation.
- Consume calcium-rich foods to help your baby’s teeth and bones grow strong. Dairy products are a prime source, but broccoli, kale and fortified juices and cereals can help you get enough of this nutrient.
- Vitamin D is also key for bone and tooth development. Good sources are salmon, tuna, swordfish and other cold-water fish; dairy, juice or plant milks with added vitamin D; and fortified cereals.
Looking at all these nutrients, you might feel worried about getting enough. The March of Dimes has helpful tips by trimester and insights for parents who follow a vegetarian, dairy-free or gluten-free diet.
What you drink makes a difference, too
Drinking plenty of water will keep you hydrated, with the added benefit of cleansing away leftover food between meals and snacks – a healthy boost for your teeth and gums. Choosing tap water or bottled water with fluoride is good for your teeth and your baby’s, too. Not sure if your local water supply is fluoridated? Check this online map to find out.
During pregnancy, you may visit the bathroom so often that the idea of drinking extra water sounds pretty unappealing! But choosing plain water over beverages such as coffee, tea, sports and energy drinks might actually help. The caffeine often found in these drinks might perk you up, but it also boosts urine production. Here are more reasons to choose water for dental (and overall) health.
Morning sickness, nutrition and your teeth
Pregnancy is a well-known cause of upset stomach, which can happen any time of day or night. Be sure to consult your doctor if you find it hard to keep food down, since this can affect the nutrients you and your baby are getting. Even though experts don’t know exactly what causes pregnancy-related nausea, certain foods may help ease it. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests:
- Eating dry toast or crackers in the morning before getting out of bed. (This helps you avoid moving around on an empty stomach.)
- Eating five or six mini-meals a day to ensure your stomach is never empty.
- Eating frequent bites of foods like nuts, fruits, or crackers.
Frequent vomiting is harmful to your dental health, since it brings digestive acids into your mouth where they can weaken the protective coating on your teeth (enamel). However, it’s best not to brush your teeth right after getting sick, since brushing the acid-weakened enamel may increase the risks of damaging your teeth. Instead, rinse your mouth with water, diluted mouthwash or plain water mixed with one teaspoon of baking soda. (It’s fine to brush 30 minutes or so later if you want to freshen your mouth.)
More questions? Your dentist can help
If you’re worried about visiting the dentist while you’re pregnant, you’ll be glad to hear it’s completely safe. Your dentist has experience in managing pregnancy-related dental concerns and can help you deal with cavity risks, tender gums and more. They can also answer questions about breastfeeding and your child’s dental health, pacifiers, thumb sucking and much more.
Looking for a new dentist? Check out the ADA’s Find-a-DentistⓇ tool.