Pregnancy can lead to dental problems in some women, including gum disease and increased risk of tooth decay. Though you are not guaranteed to have tooth or gum problems during pregnancy, there is a sizeable chance that you will run into some issues.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect how your body responds to the bacteria in your mouth that cause gingivitis. Increased progesterone can also irritate gums and cause bleeding. The bacteria in your mouth cause plaque to build up, which causes tooth decay. Gingivitis is easily treatable at beginning stages, but left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis. About 50% of women have pregnancy gingivitis by the 2nd trimester of pregnancy.
Increased Risk of Tooth Decay
Pregnant women may be more prone to cavities for several reasons besides the increased risk of gingivitis. Changes in diet that often occur during pregnancy, including increased sugar or carbohydrate intake, can cause tooth decay. Morning sickness that leads to vomiting exposes your teeth to acid, which eats away at your enamel. Morning sickness can make it more difficult to brush due to a more sensitive gag reflex. Exhaustion can affect your immune system, which means your body could be less able to fight off oral bacterial and fungal infections. Also, a significant amount of the calcium that normally remineralizes your tooth enamel is redirected to the baby during pregnancy which can increase susceptibility to decay.
Not nearly as dangerous as they sound, some women develop overgrowths of gum tissue during pregnancy called “pregnancy tumors.” This occurs most often in the second trimester. These tumors are benign, but often occur between teeth. They may be related to excess plaque. They tend to bleed easily and have a red, raspberry-like appearance.
Talk to your Dentist
Tell your dentist if you’re pregnant or you might be pregnant, and what medications you are taking. Your dentist can consult with your physician if painkillers are needed to make sure that whatever they prescribe will be safe for the baby. Though local anesthetics are considered safe during pregnancy, and some forms of anesthesia have shown themselves to be safe as well.
If you need x-rays, your dentist will cover you with a lead apron to protect your baby. X-rays should be avoided during pregnancy, but in cases of dental emergency, they might still be required.
Your Health Affects Your Baby’s Health
Studies have shown that women with poor oral hygiene habits during pregnancy are at increased risk of conditions like intrauterine growth restriction, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and premature delivery. It is vital that you take care of your teeth and gums while pregnant to decrease your risk of negative outcomes for you and your baby.
Make sure to brush at least twice a day or after meals. If you vomit, try rinsing with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with water to neutralize stomach acid. Do not brush immediately after vomiting because the acids on your teeth combined with the friction of the toothbrush can scratch tooth enamel. Floss every day. At night use a fluoridated mouth rinse.
Pay attention to your pregnancy diet to make sure that the foods you eat are low in sugar and nutritious for yourself and your baby, and remember that frequent snacking increases your risk of tooth decay. Proper oral hygiene can offset this increased risk but not completely.
You are less likely to have dental issues during pregnancy if you already have good dental habits. Making the effort to develop good dental habits is always a good idea.