If you're expecting or planning to have a baby, one of the people with whom you need to make an appointment is your dentist. This advice may seem surprising – after all, there's no popular correlation between your teeth and pregnancy. Nevertheless, there is an increased risk for oral disease when in this condition. Hormonal fluctuations, changes in eating patterns and a less-than-perfect oral hygiene routine are often to blame. So, to avoid a toothache during pregnancy or any other dental problem, your best strategy starts with a dental visit.
Dental Visits Are Safe
Both dentists and obstetricians prefer that women see a dentist before becoming pregnant. This way, the office can do a thorough checkup and cleaning, as well as treat any existing dental problems – giving you one less thing to worry about for nine months. But if you're already pregnant, there's no reason to skip your regularly scheduled appointment.
When you experience a toothache during pregnancy or any issues with your gums, don't wait until after the baby is born; call your dentist at the first sign of a problem. The American Dental Association (ADA) confirms dental visits during pregnancy are safe, including most dental procedures, X-rays and the use of local anesthetics. Just inform your dentist as to how far along you are in your pregnancy, if you are on any medications or if your pregnancy is considered high risk.
Avoiding Tooth Decay
Cavities start when the bacteria in your mouth use the sugars and carbs you eat to produce acids, which over time can dissolve the enamel on your teeth. During pregnancy you're especially at risk for tooth decay, and for a number of reasons: Food cravings, ranging from ice cream to pickles, can leave your teeth vulnerable to "acid attacks," and any decrease in brushing and flossing can add to that problem. Furthermore, your mouth is much more acidic during this time, and vomiting as a result of morning sickness can intensify the amount of acid your teeth's enamel is exposed to.
To prevent tooth decay, you'll want to brush frequently throughout the day, using a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste like Colgate® Max Fresh® Shockwave™. Keep sugary snacks to a minimum and if you do have a sweet treat, eat it at the end of your meal. Rinse your mouth with water when you aren't able to brush, and floss once a day just as you would if you weren't pregnant. If you struggle with morning sickness, the ADA recommends rinsing with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with water after vomiting to dilute and rebalance the acidic content in your mouth.
Look Out for Gum Disease
It's not unusual for an expecting mother to complain about bleeding gums when brushing or flossing. Hormonal changes that come along with pregnancy can cause inflammation, sometimes called pregnancy gingivitis. To keep this condition from developing into more serious gum disease, step up your home care routine, using an antimicrobial mouthwash and seeing your dentist for more frequent cleanings so your sensitive gums don't have another reason to become irritated.
Occasionally, in the second trimester, a raw-looking swelling of gum tissue called a "pregnancy tumor" grows between the teeth. These tumors bleed easily and may be the result of excessive plaque. Be sure to see your dentist if you suspect you have a pregnancy tumor, but the good news is they usually go away after the baby is born.
Another not-so-common complication of pregnancy is loose teeth. Mayo Clinic explains that this can happen even in the absence of gum disease due to hormones affecting the ligaments that hold your teeth in the bone. If you notice any tooth mobility you didn't used to have, see your dentist immediately.
Your dental health is an important part of your general health and the health of your baby. This is why, for a safe and healthy pregnancy, dentists and obstetricians encourage women to make their mouth a priority.