Calcium is the primary mineral responsible for the health of bones and teeth structures. The body needs calcium, vitamin D and phosphorous to build a healthy skeleton and healthy teeth. An additional supply of minerals and vitamins are needed to maintain good health of bones and teeth during pregnancy and lactation.
The teeth are encapsulated in bones. The bones that surround the teeth roots are called alveolar bones. When there is deficiency of calcium in the body, the bone structure around the teeth becomes lose because of bone loss, resulting in periodontal diseases.
Research was carried out in Tohoku University in Japan to investigate if lactation affects alveolar bone loss. They found that mothers whose diet was not rich in calcium had put their bone structure around the teeth at risk.
Periodontists suggest that expecting mothers consume an especially high calcium diet while lactating. During pregnancy and lactation, the bones release calcium in the blood stream to be used for the baby’s bones, and for producing milk. Although this process is temporary, till the pregnancy and nursing lasts, it is vital that the loss of calcium from the bones is replaced by additional intake of calcium in diet and through supplements.
Breast feeding causes increased bone loss, as calcium is needed to produce milk. It is imperative for the mother to take sufficient amounts of calcium in her diet to cater to the additional requirement during lactation.
If the calcium intake by the mother is inadequate, the periodontal tissues react by inflammation, and there is disruption in tissues that surround the teeth, resulting in attachment loss. The bone that surrounds the root also shows loss causing tooth decay.
Nursing mothers have an increased requirement for calcium. When the baby is breast fed, the calcium that is critical for her skeletal development is supplied through the breast milk. In addition to the baby’s needs, the mother also needs to take enough calcium to prevent her own bone loss in the body and in the mouth, which can worsen the periodontal diseases.
Tips to maintain healthy teeth and gums during lactation
Here are a few tips to make sure that you keep your teeth healthy even while pregnant or breast feeding.
- A thorough periodontal check should be done as soon as the woman finds she is pregnant.
- Periodontal issues should be monitored, and if any, taken care of.
- It is better to consult your dentist to resolve any outstanding dental issues before you conceive.
- It is required to have higher than normal intake of calcium throughout pregnancy and lactation.
Oral health during lactation is all the more important because during pregnancy and lactation, prevention of bone loss around teeth becomes necessity. Lack of calcium during lactation is associated with oral issues in nursing women. Sometime a lot of oral health problems lead to recommendations of early weaning.
The insufficient calcium intake in the lactating mother leads to inflammation of periodontal tissues and causes gingivitis. This condition eventually deteriorates in alveolar bone loss leading to periodontal disease.
- During lactation the mother needs to brush her teeth at least twice a day, more if possible.
- Flossing is as important as brushing as food between the teeth cause bacteria to grow leading to tooth decay.
- For better dental health during lactation, the diet of the mother should include calcium rich products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, fish, and whole grains.
- In addition to calcium, there is need to take Vitamin D and phosphorous, for calcium to be absorbed. Lactating mother should include fruits and vegetables for the same.
Even after taking all these precautions, it is imperative for the mother to see her dentist regularly to prevent major oral issues.