Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy. Tooth and gum health might not top your list of areas that require special attention, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored! Your oral health can impact the health of both you and your baby. Here are some things to watch out for during pregnancy:
You’re probably aware that levels of certain hormones change during pregnancy. An increase in progesterone leads to increased blood flow to your gums, which can result in redness, swelling and bleeding. Gingivitis, inflammation of the gums, is more likely to occur during pregnancy for this reason and is most common during the third trimester. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can lead to more serious infections that have negative effects on you and your baby.
Periodontitis is a serious gum infection typically caused by bacteria present in plaque. It affects the periodontium (the tissues that support at tooth) and can lead to tooth erosion/loss and contribute to serious health problems like stroke and heart attack1. Research has consistently shown a strong link between periodontitis during pregnancy and effect on birth weight. One study of 639 pregnant women found the risk of preterm or low birth weight babies was three times higher in women with periodontitis compared to those with good oral health2. Babies with lower birth weights are at higher risk for developing health problems both as newborns and in the long-term.
Hormonal changes can lead to pyogenic granulomas, also known as “pregnancy tumours”. These are benign growths that resemble little raspberries between your teeth. They most often appear during your second semester. It is a common condition that affects 1-5% of pregnant women and usually disappears on its own after birth3. If it causes you pain, bleeds excessively and/or interferes with chewing then you can consult your dentist to see if excision is required.
Many women experience morning sickness during pregnancy. In addition to the unpleasant queasy feeling, the acid from your stomach can cause damage to your teeth. You might be tempted to brush your teeth right after a round of morning sickness, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) recommends rinsing with a baking soda solution (1 tsp of baking soda dissolved in 1 cup of water) to neutralize the acid and limit damage4.
Proper Oral Care During Pregnancy
It’s always important to take good care of your mouth. But as you can see, pregnancy poses some unique risks for your teeth and gums. Take the above information into consideration and follow these tips for optimal oral health:
- Routine Oral Health Practices
Brush twice per day with fluoridated toothpaste, floss daily and visit the dentist twice per year.
- Pre-Pregnancy Check Up
Get checked out by a dentist before becoming pregnant to avoid the exacerbation or development of dental issues during pregnancy.
- Drink Lots of Water
Many pregnant women experience dry mouth. This puts you at increased risk for infection due to a decrease in saliva (contains enzymes that help fight harmful bacteria). Make sure you drink lots of to prevent dehydration and promote saliva production.
- Nordqvist, Christian. “What is periodontitis? What causes periodontitis?”Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 21 Dec. 2015. Web. 05 June 2017.
- Watts, T. “Higher risk of preterm birth and low birth weight in women with periodontal disease.”British Dental Journal 7 (2002): 389. Web.
- “Pyogenic Granuloma of Pregnancy.”DoveMed. N.p., 22 Oct. 2015. Web. 05 June 2017.
- Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women. “Oral Health Care During Pregnancy and Through the Lifespan – ACOG.”American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. N.p., Aug. 2013. Web. 05 June 2017.