Are you pregnant and struggling to put a toothbrush in you mouth every morning? Whilst nausea and vomiting are commonly mentioned when discussing early stages of pregnancy, some of the most frustrating side effects of the condition are often missed out. If you dread the sight of your toothbrush every time you enter the bathroom, you’ll be able to identify with one of my most irritating pregnancy struggles.
During both my pregnancies, I had to summon up the courage to go near the bathroom sink in the morning, anticipating the dreaded act of brushing my teeth. Some days I’d spend over several minutes lifting the brush, only to put it back down on loop, before finally allowing it to enter my mouth…leading to gagging, throwing up and sometimes crying with frustration.
Nausea and vomiting, commonly referred to as morning sickness occurs in the first few months of pregnancy but for many people like myself, it can go on to the very end. Women can feel unwell at any time of the day with some women feeling sick all day long.
After the initial feeling of being assaulted from all morning sickness angles had subsided, I knew I needed to find a way to clean my teeth twice a day to avoid dental problems associated with carrying a little one. What works for one person may not work for another but here is a list of tips that might help end the misery!
Find the least nauseating time
For the majority of women, sickness symptoms occur first thing in the morning. Don’t restrict yourself to brushing first thing – there is no obligation to stick to your normal routine. If you need to eat something to settle your symptoms, or want to wait for the vomiting feeling to subside, that’s absolutely OK. Even for women like myself who felt nauseous for most of the day, there may be short windows of respite which you can use as an opportunity to reach for the toothbrush and have a go.
Try changing the toothpaste
Seeing as many women have a heightened sense of smell at this time (I call it an unwanted superpower!) the strong scent of minty toothpaste might be triggering your nausea. Try switching to a milder flavour that is not so frothy or even a children’s dentally approved version as they tend to have a subtler scent and taste.
Switch from a manual to electronic toothbrush…or vice versa
Sometimes, altering the bristles or style of your brush may be enough to help the process. Choose a shape and brush style that will involve less toothpaste and even less time on the tooth. It’s particularly when the toothbrush head goes near the back of the throat or tongue that causes the gagging reflex. You could even try a small finger toothbrush designed for small children or pets (a brand new one of course) to reduce the chance of touching particularly sensitive areas of your mouth.
How about mouthwash instead?
Use mouthwash to rinse the inside of your mouth or even water if you’re going through a rough patch. Again, opt for a delicate flavour and don’t worry about how long you are able to swirl it around for. Small steps…
By leaning forwards or facing downwards whilst brushing, you can avoid pools of saliva collecting at the back of your mouth. The mixture of water, paste and saliva can create an overwhelming sensation to throw up. By trying the leaning forward method, you may find you dribble a little as the mixture finds a way out. It’s better than allowing it to hit the back of your throat and vomiting so embrace this temporary stage!
Try toothpaste tablets
If you really can’t stomach the thought of brushing when you’re struggling to keep things down, have you tried toothpaste tablets? They’re great for using on planes and popular with backpackers but also a good way to avoid the texture of toothpaste. Ideally the mantra is chew, brush and go, but if you can at least get it into your mouth to begin the cleansing process, it’s a start.
The power of distraction
Finding a way to divert your attention whilst brushing is another trick used by morning sickness sufferers. Have you trying gargling in the shower? Or perhaps brushing while watching something on the smartphone or when you’re near a television?
Floss is your friend
We are advised by experts to use interdental brushes or floss from a young age as part of our daily oral hygiene regimes. They remove plaque from in-between our teeth to prevent decay. Given that dental tools such as floss, picks or mini brushes are a fraction of the size of a brush, try using them after meals followed by a rinse of the mouth to keep the whole area as clean as you can.
It’s important to note that oral disease is common in pregnancy and therefore vital for expecting mothers to visit their dentists with any queries or concerns (only 22 to 34 percent of women in the United States visit a dentist during pregnancy).[i] In the meantime, try following some of the tips above to get you back on the path of oral recovery.