Dental Health during Pregnancy
Pregnancy can lead to dental problems in some women, including gum disease and increased risk of tooth decay. During pregnancy, your increased hormones can affect your body’s response to plaque (the layer of germs on your teeth).
Pregnancy does not automatically damage your teeth. The old wives’ tale that warns a woman to expect a lost tooth for every baby is false. If the mother’s intake of calcium is inadequate during pregnancy, her bones will provide the calcium her growing baby needs. The fetus does not take calcium from its mother’s teeth.
Pregnancy may affect your dental care. For example, the dentist may put off taking x-rays until after the birth of your baby. If dental x-rays are unavoidable, the dentist can take precautions to ensure your baby’s safety. Many women wonder if dental X-rays are safe during pregnancy. X-rays are part of regular dental care. Dental X-rays can show problems with your teeth, gums and the bones around your mouth, and yes, they can be done safely during pregnancy. Dental x-rays use very small amounts of radiation, and your dentist covers you with a special apron and collar to protect you and your baby. If your dentist wants to give you an X-ray, make sure he knows that you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
Common dental health problems during pregnancy can include:
- gum problems and loose teeth
- retching while brushing teeth.
- Pregnancy tumors
Nearly 60 to 75% of pregnant women have gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease that occurs when the gums become red and swollen from inflammation that may be aggravated by changing hormones during pregnancy. Other signs of gingivitis include: tenderness in the gums, bleeding of the gums, even when you brush your teeth gently, and shiny gums. If gingivitis is not treated, the bone that supports the teeth can be lost, and the gums can become infected. Teeth with little bone support can become loose and may eventually have to be extracted. High levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen during pregnancy can temporarily loosen the tissues and bones that keep your teeth in place. This can also make your teeth loose.
Vomiting and pregnancy:
Pregnancy hormones soften the ring of muscle that keeps food inside the stomach. Gastric reflux (regurgitating food or drink) or the vomiting associated with morning sickness can coat your teeth with strong stomach acids. Repeated reflux and vomiting can damage tooth enamel and increase the risk of decay. Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after vomiting. While the teeth are covered in stomach acids, the vigorous action of the toothbrush may scratch the tooth enamel. Instead, rinse your mouth thoroughly with plain tap water, and if available, follow up with a fluoridated mouthwash.
While you are pregnant, your eating habits may change. You may eat more of certain foods during pregnancy than you did before you were pregnant. The kinds of food you eat can affect your dental health. Some women experience unusual food cravings (and food avoidance) while they are pregnant. A regular desire for sugary snacks may increase your risk of tooth decay. Hormone changes affect how your body responds to plaque, making it harder to fight off decay. Also, with excess vomiting, enamel can be weaker and thus more prone to cavities.
Retching while brushing teeth:
Some pregnant women find that brushing their teeth, particularly the molars, provokes retching. However, you risk tooth decay if you don’t brush regularly. Try using a brush with a small head, such as a brush made for toddlers. Take your time and slow down your brushing action. Try other distractions, such as listening to music. If the taste of the toothpaste seems to provoke your gag reflex, switch to another brand. Alternatively, brush your teeth with water and follow up with a fluoridated mouthwash. Go back to brushing with fluoridated toothpaste as soon as you can.
In some women, overgrowths of tissue called “pregnancy tumors” appear on the gums, most often during the second trimester. It is not cancer but rather just swelling that happens most often between teeth. They may be related to excess plaque. They bleed easily and have a red, raw-looking raspberry-like appearance. They usually disappear after your baby is born, but if you are concerned, talk to your dentist about removing them.
It’s important for your dentist and hygienist to know that you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. You may be at risk for some or all of these dental conditions, and your pregnancy may limit the treatment options available. Always let your dental team know if you are or may be pregnant, how far along you are, and if your pregnancy is high-risk. Everyone — especially pregnant women — should visit the dentist on a regular basis, and the doctors at Prairie Lakes Dental are here to help with all of your family’s dental needs.