Can pregnancy affect my oral health?

Pregnant woman smiling sitting on couch
While probably the last thing on your mind, pregnancy can affect your oral health in several ways.

Did you know that gingivitis affects roughly 50% of women who are pregnant? Gum disease is only one of many surprising dental issues that pregnant women can face.  Many changes are happening in a woman’s body as she carries a baby, and some of these changes have a direct effect on oral health. Knowing what the risks are, and what preventative measures to take, will protect not only a mother, but her baby as well.

Hormone fluctuations

Hormone fluctuations tend to be the main contributor to dental issues throughout pregnancy. Plaque is more irritating to your gums, which can become swollen and inflamed very easily. Without proper cleaning, “pregnancy gingivitis” can result and even develop into periodontitis. This disease can be very dangerous during pregnancy, as a strong link has been shown between preeclampsia, preterm birth, and advanced gum disease.

Increased sugar intake & snacking

Another contributor is an increase in sugar intake and snacking during pregnancy. Craving sugar is common for nearly every pregnant woman, as well as snacking often. The constant presence of sugar in the mouth breeds bacteria, which leads to tooth decay. Even if it’s not something sweet every time, snacking throughout the day creates buildup on the teeth, leading to plaque and eventually, tooth decay.

Morning sickness

The last common cause of bad oral health during pregnancy is morning sickness. Stomach acids can sit on the teeth and gums if a pregnant woman is prone to vomiting. This is very common and extremely harmful, as these acids cause enamel to erode and the teeth will start to break down.  The best thing to do after morning sickness hits is wait to brush, as brushing will increase the damage of the acid, and instead rinse your mouth out immediately with water and baking soda.

Is your oral health being affected by your pregnancy?

So how do you determine if you’re experiencing oral health issues while pregnant? Some signs may include:

  • red and swollen gums
  • lumps on the gum-line, typically between the teeth
  • loose teeth (caused by hormones loosening the bones and ligaments)
  • mouth sores
  • toothache
  • gums that hurt when touched

Preventing damage

Although pregnant women cannot control how their hormones affect their teeth and gums, there are preventative measures that can be taken to avoid a dental emergency. Limiting sugar and constant snacking will definitely help decrease the buildup of plaque caused by bacteria. A healthy diet free from processed sugars will also provide key nutrients that aid the growth of your baby’s teeth as they form. Drinking plenty of water to reduce stomach acid in the mouth and avoid dry mouth (a common pregnancy symptom) will help prevent tooth decay, and regular brushing and flossing will keep gum inflammation at bay. Plaque removal is essential to stave off gingivitis before more serious gum disease can develop, putting both mother and baby at risk for pregnancy complications.

Be sure to not neglect your routine dental exam and cleaning. Let us know you’re pregnant, and we’ll give you some tips on keeping your teeth healthy. Although it is likely the last thing on your mind, a dental check-up is perhaps one of the most important steps you can take in ensuring a healthy pregnancy.