If you are expecting, you've probably become very familiar with the bodily changes caused by pregnancy over the last several months. As you fight morning sickness and deal with backaches and swelling ankles, it's very apparent that pregnancy affects every part of your body, from your feet to your head. Your teeth are no exception.
Increasing hormone levels and other pregnancy-related issues are responsible for changes that can affect your dental health and your pregnancy. Luckily, good oral hygiene and regular dental care can help you avoid serious consequences should you happen to develop one of these common dental issues.
Gingivitis, the mildest form of gum disease, is particularly common during pregnancy. The American Dental Association estimates that at least half of all pregnant women develop the condition between the second and eighth months of pregnancy. Rising progesterone levels produce the perfect environment for the growth of the bacteria that cause gingivitis and also may make your gums more sensitive to plaque, the sticky film that causes cavities.
Do your teeth bleed when you brush them? You may have gingivitis. The condition irritates the gums and causes them to swell and redden. Other symptoms can include bad breath and receding gums.
Gum disease may eventually loosen your teeth and attack your jawbone if it's not treated. In addition to the damage to your oral health, gum disease can also affect your baby. Nine out 10 research studies examined in one systemic review linked periodontal disease to an increased risk for low birth weight and pre-term labor. Results of the review appeared in the Pan African Medical Journal in July 2016.
Stomach acids strong enough to break down and digest foods can also destroy your tooth enamel. Every time you vomit, your teeth are coated with the acids. Enamel erosion can increase your risk of tooth decay and cause sensitivity when you eat or drink sweet, hot or cold foods and beverages.
Enamel erosion isn't the only reason that you may be more likely to develop a toothache during pregnancy. When you feel awful, brushing and flossing may fall to the bottom of your to-do list, particularly if your gag reflux is particularly strong. Unfortunately, if you don't brush and floss regularly, plaque will build up in your mouth.
The foods you crave can also boost your cavity risk. Sweet or carbohydrate-heavy foods are common cavity culprits. Treating tooth decay promptly will help you avoid extensive dental work in the future. Although expectant mothers often worry that dental treatment may be harmful, dental procedures and X-rays don't pose a risk to your baby.
Discovering a growth on your gums can be a frightening experience. Fortunately, these pregnancy tumors don't cause serious health or dental problems and usually go away after your baby is born.
The bones and ligaments that hold your teeth in place may become a little looser due to higher levels of estrogen and progesterone. In most cases, the problem won't cause tooth loss or any permanent consequences.
Protecting Your Teeth During Pregnancy
These tips can help you keep your smile healthy during your pregnancy:
- Brush twice a day and floss once to remove plaque and bacteria that can cause cavities. Keeping plaque levels low is also the key to reducing your gingivitis risk.
- Don't forget about your tongue. Brushing or scraping your tongue after you brush your teeth is a simple way to reduce plaque buildup.
- Use anti-bacterial mouthwash after brushing to kill bacteria in your mouth.
- Visit the dentist for regular checkups and cleaning. If you notice signs of gingivitis, don't wait until your next appointment to mention your symptoms. Prompt treatment can prevent gingivitis from turning into periodontitis, the more severe form of the disease.
- Neutralize acids to prevent enamel erosion after a bout of morning sickness. Rinse your mouth with one teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in an eight-ounce cup of water.
- Wait one hour to brush your teeth if you vomit. Brushing too soon spreads stomach acids over the surface of your teeth.
- Drink water or minimize the effects of the acids in beverages by using a straw. Acidic drinks include full sugar and diet carbonated beverages and fruit juices.
If you are currently expecting or plan to become pregnant, make sure you make time for a trip to the dentist. Give us a call to schedule your next appointment today!
March of Dimes: Dental Health During Pregnancy, 1/13
The Pan African Medical Journal: Relationship Between Periodontal Disease and Preterm Low Birth Weight: A Systemic Review, 7/12/16
ADA: Pregnant? 9 Questions You May Have About Your Dental Health
ADA: Is it Safe to Go to the Dentist During Pregnancy
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 8/13
WedMD: Pregnancy and Gingivitis