When you think about pregnancy, you probably don’t think about your teeth. Though it’s not something widely known and talked about, your oral health is very important for a healthy pregnancy – for both mother and child. Being pregnant changes chemical compositions throughout your body and results in changes in vitamin and mineral levels. You may recognize this problem from common warnings about prenatal vitamins and diet. But it’s also a very real concern for dental health. Keep reading to learn more about how pregnancy affects your oral health from Dr. Amir Davoody, Dr. Rana Mehr, Dr. Thomais Ioannou, and Dr. Panagiotis Kyteas at Greater Houston Orthodontics
How Does Pregnancy Affect Your Gums?
Gum disease or gingivitis isn’t necessarily caused by pregnancy. So, you probably won’t develop the disease if you don’t have gingivitis before pregnancy. Pregnancy worsens preexisting gum disease. Often, gingivitis increases in severity throughout pregnancy, reaching a peak during the third trimester. Most of the time these symptoms should recede a few months after birth.
Localized sores or lesions called gingival enlargements can also occur in patients who have gingivitis during pregnancy. These sores may bleed and cause pain but should also begin to go away after birth. Pregnancy also causes the soft tissue around the gums to progressively change due to the changes in saliva composition. This can cause the progression of gingivitis as well as heighten the risk of tooth decay.
Severe gum disease, or periodontitis, also increases in severity with pregnancy. Periodontitis in women is linked to premature birth and low weight birth. Studies have shown that roughly 18% of premature births can be associated with periodontal disease. Coupled with the vitamin D deficiency often seen during pregnancy, it is important to maintain good oral health throughout pregnancy. It is also essential to inform your dentist of your pregnancy so they can adjust treatment accordingly.
Does Pregnancy Cause Tooth Decay?
As we mentioned, there are changes in saliva composition associated with pregnancy. These changes make the teeth more susceptible to decay and may cause enamel erosion. Luckily, with a good oral health routine, this chemical change shouldn’t cause too much damage to your teeth and doesn’t last past pregnancy.
The bigger risk of decay during pregnancy is acidic deposits from vomit. During pregnancy, many women experience morning sickness and vomit more often than usual, sometimes multiple times a day. Vomit has high levels of acid, and this can lead to some significant enamel damage and a more permanent risk of decay. The best thing to do for your teeth in this situation seems a bit counterintuitive – don’t brush them.
After vomiting, it’s best to wait ten to fifteen minutes before brushing your teeth. Swishing some water around gently right after you vomit and taking a few minutes before you brush makes sure the acid-weakened enamel doesn’t get further damaged by rough brushing. A fluoride mouthwash added to your oral health routine will help strengthen your enamel and protect it from damage.
In summary, maintaining good oral health during pregnancy is essential for both the mother and child. Pregnancy can exacerbate pre-existing gum disease and increase the risk of tooth decay, so it’s important to inform your dentist of your pregnancy and maintain a good oral health routine. Additionally, if you experience morning sickness and vomit frequently, it’s best to wait before brushing your teeth to avoid further damage to enamel. By taking care of your oral health during pregnancy, you can ensure a healthy start for both you and your baby.