How Pregnancy Can Affect Your Dental Health

February 24, 2020, Functional Aesthetic Dentistry

How Pregnancy Can Affect Your Dental Health
How Pregnancy Can Affect Your Dental Health
The Third-Trimester Dental Debacle.

With pregnancy comes physical and hormonal changes that can often be challenging to endure. One of the common impacts of these hormonal changes is an increased activity of gingivitis-causing bacteria. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. There is more development of plaque and increased sensitivity. With time, this pregnancy gingivitis may worsen to become periodontitis or gum disease.

Because of this increased risk, which often affects as much as 40% of pregnant women. Visiting the dentist should be very much on your prenatal care checklist. Without due care, a pregnant woman may experience oral pain, tooth decay, and loose teeth over time.

Pregnancy Changes That Affect Teeth

  • Hormonal Changes: When a woman is pregnant, her progesterone levels will become elevated. This is the hormone that increases bacterial activity in the mouth and encourages the formation of plaque. The hormone is necessary to help relax the womb muscles. It allows for the expansion of the womb to accommodate the growing fetus and prevent premature childbirth. As we cannot interfere with this process. It remains the mother’s task to do whatever she can, to limit bacterial activity through good oral hygiene practices. 
  • Morning Sickness: Although it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons for morning sickness, many experts believe that the hormonal changes and reduced blood sugars that occur in the early months, may be the strong triggers. Vomit is acidic and when it is forced out through the mouth, it will come in contact with the teeth, causing damage. Every effort must be made to restrict this exposure to avoid the corrosion of the tooth enamel.
  • Food Cravings: Many mothers-to-be also experience sugar cravings and changes in their appetite. Feeling the urge to eat more frequently and snack on sugary foods is commonplace but unfortunately bad for the teeth.

The resulting tooth decay can cause:

  • Cavities
  • Tooth Sensitivity
  • Promote Gigivitis
  • Bacterial Growth: With increased bacterial activity in the mouth, there is a high risk of an infection seeping into the bloodstream. This can trigger the production of chemicals identified as prostaglandins. These chemicals can cause premature labor.
  • Pregnancy Tumors: These are an overgrowth of tissues that appear as small red swellings emerging between the teeth. The growths typically appear during the second trimester and are harmless. They may be caused by hormonal changes and the resulting development of plaque.

Symptoms to Look Out For

Pregnancy gingivitis usually occurs between the 2nd and 8th month of the pregnancy. It will be at its worst during the third trimester. As mentioned, gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. It often presents as:

  • Pain in the gums
  • Redness
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling

Some bleeding may also be experienced during and after the brushing of teeth. The bacterial activity can cause gums to recede and increase the production of bacteria that causes bad breath.

If the condition persists untreated, deep pockets may begin to form between the gums and teeth, leading to periodontitis. The teeth may eventually start to feel loose, making it uncomfortable to bite and chew. Let’s put progressive periodontal disease on a spectrum.

Pregnancy tumors appear as benign growths that look like raspberries emerging between the teeth. They’re non-cancerous and will typically go away on their own after childbirth. If, however, you are concerned, your dentist can likely remove them.

Tips for Preventing Dental Problems

  • See Your Dentist: As mentioned, the first thing to do would be to schedule an appointment with your dentist after you have seen your gynecologist/obstetrician. Your dentist can perform cleanings and check your risk for gingivitis. He can also take a dental x-ray and perform minor procedures under local anesthetic. This is safe to do during a healthy pregnancy. Be sure to let the dentist know of any prescription or OTC (over the counter) drugs you may be taking to avoid bad drug interactions. Depending on your oral health status, your dentist may book a follow up in the second or third trimester.
  • Do Not Brush Immediately After Morning Sickness: It may feel instinctual to brush your teeth after vomiting, but this can make things worse. You need to first neutralize the acids that linger in the mouth by rinsing it out with water mixed with baking soda, before you brush.
  • Practice Good Oral Hygiene: Being consistent in twice-daily brushing and flossing can be a big help in reducing the risk of oral health problems. You can even opt to brush after every meal.  Try to get your partner to keep reminding you. Pregnancy can often be tiring and it is easy to forget to brush your teeth after a long day or sleepless night. Make use of your support system to keep you on track.
  • Eat Smart: A diet high in sugary foods and beverages will damage your teeth. Try to stock up on low sugar snacks and make anything sugary an occasional treat. Try to switch out snacks for vegetables or fruits and reach for unsweetened drinks and yogurts. Doing this will also reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes.

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