Hormone levels fluctuate significantly during pregnancy. Do you know that hormone extremes during pregnancy can put you at risk for many serious dental problems? Brushing teeth while pregnant can help, but you'll need to do more to prevent these potential complications. Don't be surprised when both your dentist and your obstetrician ask you to step up your oral health game during pregnancy. Now is a good time to learn what the pregnancy-related problems are and how to prevent them.
Pregnancy Gingivitis and Periodontitis
You may find that these hormonal changes cause your gums to swell and bleed more easily than before. The American Dental Association (ADA) refers to this as pregnancy gingivitis, and it could be a sign that you need to brush and floss more thoroughly. You should take care of gingivitis as early as possible. If it is left untreated, you could end up with a much more serious condition called periodontitis, which can result in significant bone and tissue loss around your teeth.
This may seem surprising, but even if you do not develop pregnancy gingivitis or periodontitis, hormones can affect the ligaments and bone that hold your teeth in their socket. When this happens, your teeth can become loose. You should immediately alert your dentist if your teeth show any sign of movement. Your dentist will recommend that you seek a consultation with a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in treatment of the gum tissue and supporting bone.
Dental Decay and Tooth Erosion
You may think that your cavity-prone years are behind you. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), however, pregnancy increases the acidity level in your mouth, which causes you to be more vulnerable to tooth decay. Many women know that pregnancy cravings can lead to some not-so-healthy, often sugary, eating binges. Unhealthy eating combined with a slip in your home care routine can also lead to tooth decay. More bad news: Your teeth are also at risk of enamel erosion if you are vomiting from morning sickness or are experiencing gastric reflux.
It is rare, but a tumor-like swelling can sometimes develop on a localized area of your gum tissue. This is caused by an exaggerated response to the plaque on your teeth. According to the Contemporary Clinical Dentistry Journal, these pregnancy tumors can appear during your second or third trimester and usually go away after the pregnancy has occurred.
Keeping Your Teeth and Gums Healthy
You are likely very excited about your pregnancy and super-motivated to do what is best for you and your baby. You've probably already had a visit with your obstetrician. The next step is to make a dental appointment. Both your dentist and your obstetrician want you to be free from any dental problems. Here are some of the oral health tips that they may recommend for you.
First, thoroughly brush your teeth at least twice a day, and floss once a day. This is basic home care 101, but it's more important than ever when you are pregnant. Rinsing with an antimicrobial mouthwash will reduce the bacteria in your mouth, and following a nutritious diet with limited sugary foods and drinks is always advised. The ACOG recommends that, if you have been vomiting, you lower the acidity level in your mouth by rinsing with a solution of 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 1 cup of water. Last but not least, the ADA recommends that you visit your dentist throughout your pregnancy for checkups and cleanings.
Brushing teeth while pregnant is just the first step of many that are needed to fight the effects of your hormones. Today, many dentists and obstetricians work together to ensure that women know that it is not only safe to go to the dentist during pregnancy but is also an important part of your prenatal care. As you develop a good oral health care routine to manage the unique dental issues that pregnancy can cause, you will reinforce good habits that will benefit your oral health and general well-being for the rest of your life.