You're expecting, and you know that means some pretty big changes to your body for the next nine months at least. But you might not know how oral health and pregnancy are related. Expecting families have a lot on their minds, but that doesn't mean they can neglect their teeth and gums. Changes in hormone levels increase the risk of oral health issues, including gum disease and small round raised areas on the gums known as pregnancy tumors.
While you wait for your little one to arrive, here are a number of things you should know to keep your mouth healthy:
Without hormones, you wouldn't be able to make a baby. With them, though, you feel a bit moodier, your bladder seems a lot smaller, and for some reason you constantly crave weird meals like peanut butter and pickles. Hormones also play a part in making your gums swell while pregnant, leading to a condition called pregnancy gingivitis. If you notice that your gums are bleeding more frequently during pregnancy, the American Pregnancy Association recommends being proactive about it. Your dentist might recommend more frequent professional teeth cleanings, at least until your baby is born.
At home, keep up the good work. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to reduce the chance of irritating your gums, and a toothpaste such as Colgate Total® Deep Clean to protect against gum disease or decay. Also, remember to floss at least once a day; swelling makes it easier for bits of food to get stuck in hard-to-reach places.
Some women also develop what are alarmingly called "pregnancy tumors" due to hormonal changes while pregnant. Don't let the name scare you; pregnancy tumors are not malignant. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the growths most often appear during the second trimester, and look like little raspberries that form between the teeth. Your dentist can remove them if they cause you discomfort, but in most cases, the tumors will vanish after your baby is born.
Morning Sickness and Your Teeth
Morning sickness is a part of pregnancy for many women. It also brings up concerns about oral health and pregnancy, as the acid from your stomach can be strong enough to contribute to tooth erosion, according to the American Congress of Obestricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). If you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux later in your pregnancy, the gastric acid can have the same effect on your teeth. Although you may be tempted to brush your teeth immediately after a bout of morning sickness, the best thing you can do to protect your enamel is swish with baking soda and water afterward. Baking soda is basic, meaning it will help neutralize the acid from your stomach. Mix about a teaspoon of it into a cup of water, then use the mixture to rinse out your mouth before brushing.
Visiting Your Dentist
The dentist can be a great help in keeping your mouth (and your baby) healthy during pregnancy. Be sure to let your dentist know that you're pregnant as soon as you know. He or she may need to adjust the treatments or medications given to you, such as postponing certain procedures until after your baby is born to avoid taking any risks. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the second trimester is often the ideal time to have minor dental work performed, such as having a cavity filled, or a professional cleaning, if needed.
Contrary to popular belief, seeing your dentist for a teeth cleaning and dental X-ray is safe while you are pregnant. The ACOG actually encourages it, and recommends that OB/GYNs work with patients and their dentists to ensure that every pregnancy is a safe and healthy one.
Pregnancy means big changes in your body and your lifestyle; remember that it's just as important to take care of your teeth and gums as it is the rest of you.