Did you know pregnancy can significantly impact your teeth and dental health? It’s true! This article covers what you should know.
Meeting regularly with your primary doctor and OB-GYN goes from a good idea to a necessity as soon as the test says positive. After that, it’s a never-ending barrage of blood draws, appointments, and ultrasounds.
In all the commotions of preparing for your baby and monitoring your health, it’s easy to forget other routine care like the eye doctor and dentist.
Good oral hygiene is essential during these months. Fortunately, regular checkups and minor lifestyle adjustments will help you maintain good dental health for you and your unborn child and prevent any lasting consequences.
Dental health issues during pregnancy
The hormone fluctuations and pregnancy symptoms you’ll experience over the following months can affect oral health. You may deal with some or none of them while carrying your baby.
- Gum disease
- Pregnancy tumors
- Weak enamel
- Loose teeth
However, most improve with proper care, and some go away entirely after you give birth and finish breastfeeding.
1. Gum disease
Gingivitis affects the gums and is a common occurrence in pregnant women. The increased estrogen and progesterone hormones in your body can cause inflammation.
You’ll also experience more blood flow to your gums and a lowered ability for your body to fight off plaque bacteria.
These scenarios are a triple threat to oral health, causing sore and bleeding gums. Your teeth may loosen without treatment, and you could get an infection.
The same plaque bacteria can cause imperfections in your teeth called cavities. Left alone, these small holes will get bigger, allowing the bacteria in your mouth to multiply and creating further infection and tooth decay.
3. Pregnancy tumors
Pregnancy tumors are another result of gum inflammation. While the name may seem scary, these aren’t cancerous and generally go away on their own after giving birth, and your hormones return to normal.
You may find these popping up between teeth where plaque is the hardest to reach. They’ll swell and bleed easily but are harmless if you maintain dental hygiene.
4. Weak enamel
Morning sickness affects around seven in 10 women during the first trimester, with some continuing to feel nauseous throughout their pregnancy.
Getting sick repeatedly introduces heightened stomach acid to your teeth and gums. Over time, it can wear down your enamel, weakening your teeth.
5. Loose Teeth
Inflammation in your gums can lead to infection and loosen your teeth. At the same time, progesterone and estrogen limber up your tissues and bones to help your body through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
This phenomenon may benefit some body parts but can make your dental bones and tissues lose enough to cause wiggly teeth.
How to protect your oral health while pregnant and beyond
These small lifestyle changes and handy tips are easy to incorporate into your day and can significantly impact oral health. They’ll also reduce the risk of any related consequences for your baby.
1. Maintain a daily dental hygiene routine
The most important thing you can do for your oral health is to set and maintain a daily teeth-cleaning routine. Creating these habits will help you keep your teeth and gums in good order during pregnancy.
It would be best to brush with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice daily, preferably after every meal. Since brushing alone can’t reach all the hard-to-access places between your teeth, you should also floss every day to remove significant bits of debris and reduce plaque buildup.
2. Get bi-annual cleanings
Despite your best efforts, professional cleaning will always surpass the quality of an at-home job. You should see your hygienist at least twice yearly to remove tough built-up plaque. Their tools and expertise will give you a great clean, and fresh start for your dental hygiene routine.
3. Schedule a dental exam
Keeping your teeth clean is a great start, but you’ll need to move beyond cleanliness to manage your dental health long-term and during pregnancy.
Plan to visit your dentist at least once while carrying your child. They’ll be able to spot any problems and correct them before they worsen into tooth decay, tooth loss, or gum disease.
4. Opt for safe fillings
Before getting any fillings while pregnant, you should talk to your dentist to discuss any concerns. The numbing agents are pregnancy safe.
However, certain filling materials are safer for a developing baby than others. Traditional dental amalgam consists of metals like silver, tin, and copper mixed with liquid mercury.
Most people aren’t affected by such small exposure to mercury. However, it can create problems with your developing child’s neurological development. It may be safer to choose an alternative filling option.
5. Watch for changes
You know your mouth better than anyone. An easy way to prevent long-term damage to your teeth or gums is to be on the lookout for any changes.
Tell your dentist if you notice excessive gums, redness, swelling, or bleeding. Also, keep track of any differences in your teeth, like a change in color, increased sensitivity, or abnormal looseness.
6. Rinse your mouth after vomiting
It’s tempting to brush your teeth right after experiencing morning sickness. However, the scrubbing action while fresh stomach acid in your mouth will eat away at your enamel.
To remove the nasty taste and some of the acids, rinse your mouth with water and baking soda. Brushing your teeth in about an hour is safe if you’d like.
Most of these tips are for moms-to-be, but they can also be helpful during the postpartum period when your hormones are still out of whack. Breastfeeding can prolong some of these symptoms.
However, it also works wonders for your new baby’s dental health. Babies who are breastfed are 3.7 times less likely to have bite issues. Plus, the antibodies in your breast milk can help your child fight tooth decay.
8. Find alternative ways to satisfy cravings
Sugary foods are a cornerstone of pregnancy cravings. Indulging in chocolate, ice cream, and baked goods may satisfy your sweet tooth but can wreak havoc on your teeth.
The sugars in your favorite treats provide a smorgasbord for the plaque bacteria in your mouth and encourage tooth decay. Cut sugar wherever you can and choose healthier snacks.
9. Eat a balanced diet
Getting a wide variety of nutrients is essential during pregnancy and postpartum. Choosing lean proteins, healthy fats, and a rainbow of vegetables will keep you full for longer and reduce the likelihood of tooth decay from sugary binges.
Pregnancy also increases your need for calcium and vitamin D, which are necessary for your baby’s healthy development. Without enough of those nutrients, your body will leech the required supply from your bones and teeth, causing them to become more brittle.
Adding seeds into your diet, like pumpkin and sesame, will increase your intake and support you and your little one without compromising your dental health.
10. Chew sugar-free gum
Saliva is your mouth’s best defense against plaque buildup and tooth decay. It washes away the sugars and acids bacteria need to thrive.
Chewing a sugar-free stick of gum after meals can combat stray food particles until you can brush your teeth again. A minty variety can improve your oral health further by reducing your nausea.
11. Stay hydrated
Another way to keep up your saliva supply is to stay hydrated. Avoid sugary drinks because these will add to the sugars coating your teeth and gums. Instead, keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times.
Your baby, body, and teeth will benefit from constant fluids.
You have the tools to maintain good dental health
The possible oral symptoms of pregnancy may seem overwhelming on top of everything else you experience these nine months, but they’re easily manageable.
You can negate or improve almost every single one with a handful of lifestyle changes. Then you can shift your focus to more exciting things, like preparing the nursery, buying adorable baby outfits, and planning for your postpartum recovery.
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Mia is a freelance writer and researcher with a passion for health and wellness and over 3+ years of experience. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine, an online healthy living publication.