During pregnancy, there are so many changes happening throughout the body that it is easy to overlook the changes that your mouth undergoes. There are also specific recommendations regarding receiving dental care that may make it more difficult to acquire treatment for dental issues that do occur during pregnancy. Understanding how pregnancy impacts oral health can help you to keep the teeth and gums healthy throughout pregnancy and beyond, and may also help to keep you and your baby safer.
The body’s production of the hormones progesterone and estrogen increases substantially during pregnancy. These hormones can cause the body to react more severely to plaque that is present on the teeth, causing a condition that is referred to as “pregnancy gingivitis”. Most pregnant woman will experience this reaction to some degree, which causes redness, swelling, and bleeding of the gums.
Morning sickness is very common for pregnant women and can be more common and severe for some than others. If morning sickness is very frequent, the acid that the teeth are exposed to from the recurring sickness can begin to erode the enamel of the teeth. It is very important to rinse your mouth out to remove the acid from the teeth following morning sickness.
Some pregnant women will develop growths on the gums, especially near the upper gum line, during pregnancy. These growths are not harmful, but can be alarming and annoying. The cause of the nodules is unknown, but they are seen more frequently when oral care is poor than when the teeth and gums were healthy before pregnancy.
The changes that pregnancy brings often cause the production of saliva to decrease, which can lead to an uncomfortably dry mouth. Since saliva rinses harmful sugars, acids, and bacteria off of the teeth, a decrease in saliva may lead to faster tooth decay and gum issues. To combat dry mouth, pregnant woman can drink more fluids and chew sugar free gums and candies to stimulate the production of saliva.
Visiting a dentist during pregnancy is not as straightforward as visiting a dentist when not pregnant. It is best to receive a thorough examination, cleaning, and x-rays before pregnancy if possible. During pregnancy, it is best to receive dental care only during the second trimester. X-rays and major dental procedures should be delayed until after the baby is born, if possible. Changes such as these could affect the health of the baby and sitting in the dental chair for extended periods of time can reduce circulation.
If you are considering becoming pregnant, talk to your dentist about steps to take to protect your oral health and keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.