Pregnancy and Oral Health Problems and Tips
Pregnancy is an amazing transformation for the expectant mother through many physical changes. Unfortunately, some of those changes have negative effects for the future mother’s oral health. Whether the changes are due to hormonal differences, increased nausea, or change in diet or home care habits they can all be detrimental to teeth and gums. This article will touch on the common challenges and recommendations for prevention of dental complications.
Pregnancy triggers hormonal changes which increase the risk of oral health problems. Increased levels of progesterone can contribute to inflammation of the gums, making pregnant women susceptible to gingivitis, a reversible form of gum disease. The recommendation to minimize gum inflammation includes meticulous oral hygiene practices including regular brushing with an electric brush on both your teeth and gums. Daily flossing and antimicrobial mouthwash also help.
Morning sickness is estimated to affect 70-80% of all pregnant women to some degree. Frequent vomiting exposes the teeth to acid which leads to erosion of the enamel and cavities. For women with a high risk of tooth decay, it is common to have several cavities after a pregnancy. To prevent the effects of morning sickness on the teeth, it is recommended to use fluoride products which remineralize teeth after the acid demineralizes them. The fluoride should be in both toothpaste and a mouthwash to be used topically only. Try to avoid brushing soon after vomiting or tasting any acidity in the mouth. It is best to use mouthwash at that time and wait to brush for 30 minutes because the acidity softens the enamel of teeth and brushing immediately can cause further loss of enamel. Conversely, fluoride in the mouthwash strengthens the enamel.
Cravings and changes in diet are common for pregnant women. It is best for oral health to choose healthier snack options such as fruits, vegetables, yogurts, and cheese. Sugary treats should be eaten as part of mealtime to minimize the impact on teeth. Decreasing the number of snacks through the day and staying well hydrated by drinking water frequently will decrease food debris and acidity in your mouth leading to better oral health.
Dental health is important for both the mother and the baby, as severe gum disease has been linked to low birth weight and preterm birth. Having a checkup before attempting to get pregnant is ideal but it is still beneficial to be evaluated during pregnancy. Elective procedures such as checkups are typically performed during the second trimester out of caution for the early development of the baby in the first trimester and risk of causing stress leading to preterm labor in the third trimester. Urgent or emergency treatment can be performed any time during pregnancy with certain precautions. There is a greater risk to the baby due to stress from pain or bacterial infections compared to any risks from procedures. Even x-rays, specific anesthetics, and several antibiotics have been shown to be safe during pregnancy.
Prioritize oral health if you become pregnant due to potential adverse for both mom and baby. Stay diligent with your homecare and you can maintain a healthy mouth and healthy baby. If at any time you have concerns, seek advice from your dentist and dental hygienist.
This article was also shared with the Capital Democrat for the Staying Healthy column in September 2023 by Dr. Joiner.