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Pregnancy and your dental health

You knew having a baby would be a life-altering experience, but you probably didn’t give much thought to how it might affect your smile! Nevertheless, hormonal changes during pregnancy can indeed impact your oral health.

As a result, it’s important to take extra care of your teeth and gums when expecting. Let’s take a look at the dental issues that can arise and how best to deal with them.

How can pregnancy affect my dental health?

Significant increases in your hormone levels and blood flow can alter your body’s response to plaque, making gums more vulnerable to the build-up of the bacteria.

Some women suffer from sore or inflamed gums as a result, occasionally leading to bleeding. This is known as pregnancy gum disease or gingivitis. Other signs include pain or difficulty while eating, tooth sensitivity, or even loose teeth. 

Pregnancy epulis, meanwhile, is a localised tender swelling between the tooth and gum that can bleed quite easily. It is also caused by bacteria in the mouth.

Are there contributing factors?

Morning sickness can bring harmful stomach acid into your mouth and weaken tooth enamel. 

You may develop cravings for particularly sugary or acidic foods during your pregnancy, so try to be mindful of the detrimental impact they can have in terms of tooth erosion and general oral hygiene. 

Naturally, poor hygiene habits will exacerbate many of these problems. If untreated, pregnancy gingivitis may lead to more serious problems such as periodontitis, a form of gum disease which can lead to the breakdown of the tooth’s bony structure. 

An estimated 12% of women will also develop gestational diabetes, a temporary condition which can be controlled with diet and exercise. It’s worth noting that people who exercise poor diabetes control are more prone to gum disease, infections, dry mouth and poor healing.

What steps can I take to protect my dental health?

As always, prevention is better than cure. Carefully brush your teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush and use floss to clean between your teeth once a day.

When it comes to morning sickness, avoid brushing directly after vomiting as this can worsen the effects of stomach acid. Instead, rinse your mouth out with water, a fluoride mouthwash or baking soda. Chewing sugar-free gum produces saliva, which in turn can help wash away acid. 

As previously mentioned, try to limit your intake of sugary or acidic food and drink, substituting them with mouth-healthy snacks such as cheese, nuts, carrots or yoghurt. 

While dentists will generally avoid performing more involved work on you while you are pregnant, preventative exams and cleanings are very much recommended during this period. 

Once your baby arrives, keeping a good oral health routine will serve to reduce the amount of bacteria you pass over to your little one. 

For more on maternal health, click here.