Pregnancy can lead to dental problems in some women, including gum disease and increased risk of tooth decay. During pregnancy, your increased hormones can affect your body’s response to plaque (the layer of germs on your teeth). Pregnancy alone though does not automatically damage your teeth and the old wives’ tale that warns a woman to expect a lost tooth for every baby is false. If the mother’s intake of calcium is inadequate during pregnancy, her bones – not her teeth – will provide the calcium her growing baby needs and this calcium loss is quickly made up after breastfeeding is stopped.
However, the demands of pregnancy can lead to particular dental problems in some women. With proper hygiene at home and professional help from your dentist, your teeth should remain healthy throughout pregnancy, and reduce the impact of related pregnancy and gum disease issues.
What is pregnancy gingivitis?
If you’ve brushed or flossed your teeth and noticed a considerable amount of blood, pain, or swelling, you may have gingivitis. During pregnancy, your progesterone hormone levels are high and this increase makes you more susceptible to developing the bacterial plaque that can attack your gums.
Symptoms of gingivitis include:
- swollen gums
- tender, puffy gums
- bleeding gums
- receding gums
- red gums
- bad breath
Pregnancy gingivitis most commonly develops between months 2 and 8 and It may reach a peak during the third trimester. Pregnant women also face an increased risk of both tooth decay and loose teeth and your dentist may recommend that you schedule a cleaning appointment sometime in the second or third trimester to assess your overall oral health, and prevent pregnancy gum disease from escalating.
Vomiting and the effects on your teeth
The reason morning sickness is damaging to teeth is that the nausea and vomiting brings acid from the stomach up into the mouth. Healthy stomachs are filled with acid, which breaks down food as an important part of the digestion process. However, that acid is supposed to stay in the stomach. Stomach acid has a pH of 1.5-3.5 and in contrast, a healthy mouth has a pH that is slightly above neutral, in the range of 7.1-7.5. Teeth can stay strong at this pH but the enamel covering our teeth begins to weaken when the pH drops to 5.5 or below.
When someone vomits, the acid in the stomach is pulled up the esophagus and into the mouth and this stomach acid is far below the pH threshold for enamel damage. When the mouth is subjected to this strong acid with such a low pH repeatedly, the enamel is weakened and may begin to erode.
Enamel erosion is the gradual degradation of the enamel surface of teeth caused by exposure to acids. This includes any acid, like lemon juice and any carbonated drink and because stomach acid is more acidic than these things, it can cause more damage in a shorter amount of time. The enamel becomes thinner and is even missing in some areas and on front teeth, this can cause the teeth to appear translucent or “see-through”. On back teeth, the enamel can erode away from a filling, leaving the filling taller than the tooth surface.
Food cravings whilst pregnant
Some women experience unusual food cravings (and food avoidance) while they are pregnant. A regular desire for sugary snacks may increase your risk of tooth decay. Try to snack on low-sugar foods instead but if nothing but sweetness will satisfy your craving, try to sometimes choose healthier options such as fresh fruits. Rinse your mouth with water or an alcohol-free mouth rinse, or brush your teeth after having sugary snacks.
Contact your dentist if you’ve noticed any changes in your teeth or gums that you think should be immediately addressed. Tell your dentist about your pregnancy, even if you haven’t told your friends and family. This information is important so you can get the best care. You should also keep up with regularly scheduled cleanings during your pregnancy and ask your dentist if they recommend more frequent visits.
For further information on pregnancy and gum disease and how we can help, please contact us here .