Pregnancy and Oral Health – Know the Various Aspects

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Dr Hira Sualeh
Hira has done BDS. She is a dentist, wife, sister, daughter, and mother, all rolled into one confusing package. With the little time her son leaves her, she likes to read and binge watches anything on Netflix.

The stork has visited you, and now you have nine months to prepare for your bundle of joy. Pregnancy brings about a lot of changes to your body, both good and bad.

Dental health takes a back seat, with all the other changes your body is going through. There is an old wives’ tale that says that you lose a tooth for every baby. This saying is not true, and your oral health should not be ignored at this time.

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Increased hormone levels during pregnancy expose you to a variety of dental problems. You should be aware of all these problems and manage them beforehand.

Read on to find out how your oral health is affected during pregnancy and how to manage it.

Dental treatment before pregnancy

If you are planning to get pregnant, it is advisable to visit your dentist for a thorough check-up. You can also get a professional cleaning done before your pregnancy to avoid gum diseases. (1)

Though you can get any dental treatment done during your pregnancy, it is better to leave any elective procedure for after your delivery.

Common causes of dental problems during pregnancy

  • Increased hormone levels
  • Morning sickness/vomiting
  • Craving for sugary snacks
  • Retching while brushing teeth

Morning sickness and oral lesions

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Pregnancy and morning sickness go hand in hand. Increased acid reflux during pregnancy exposes the enamel to gastric acid.

It can lead to enamel erosion and the risk of tooth decay. Pregnant women can protect their teeth with the following suggestions: (2)

  • Visit your OB/GYN to manage morning sickness using antiemetics, antacids, etc.
  • Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after you vomit. As gastric acid covers your teeth after you vomit, the vigorous action of brushing can scratch your enamel.
  • Rinse your mouth with plain water and one teaspoon of baking soda to neutralize the effect of stomach acid.
  • Use a fluoridated toothpaste to brush your teeth at least an hour after vomiting.

Pregnancy cravings and dental caries

Some women experience weird food cravings during pregnancy. Usually, these cravings are for sugary snacks, which increase the risk of tooth decay.

While it’s not possible to avoid these cravings, try to snack on low-sugar snacks. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss after every meal. (3)

Pregnancy gingivitis

Gingivitis is the inflammation of gingival, characterized by swollen and bleeding gums. It is aggravated during pregnancy due to the increased levels of estrogen and progesterone, changes in oral flora and decreased immune response. (4)

Approximately 60-70% of pregnant women suffer from ‘pregnancy gingivitis.’ It can be easily managed by regular brushing and flossing and use of chlorhexidine mouthwash. In severe cases, professional cleaning can help relieve symptoms.

Pregnancy tumors

‘Pregnancy tumors’ are tissue overgrowth seen on gingival, in approximately 5% of pregnant women. It most commonly occurs during the second trimester.

The term ‘tumors’ may suggest something serious, but it is not cancer. It is only swelling of the gingival tissue, prone to easily bleed.

It is related to both the absence and presence of plaque, local irritants and bacteria. It grows rapidly and typically recedes after delivery. You can contact your dentist for surgical removal of the ‘tumor’ if they interfere with chewing and biting. (5)

Periodontitis during pregnancy

Periodontitis is a destructive inflammation of the periodontium (tooth-supporting structures). It destroys the fibers holding the tooth together, leading to the formation of pockets and loosening of teeth.

Some investigators identified 24 studies demonstrating a positive relationship between periodontitis and pre-term birth, low birth weight or both. (6)

The management of periodontitis in pregnancy is based on early diagnosis and deep root scaling.

Women with pre-existing periodontal disease can reduce the risk of recurrence or worsening disease during pregnancy through proper oral hygiene. (7)

Increase the amount of calcium and vitamin-D in your diet to strengthen your teeth and bones, and it also helps in the development of healthy teeth and bones for the baby.

Visit the dentist during pregnancy

  • Don’t forget to let your dentist know that you are pregnant. Routine dental care or any necessary procedures can be done any time during your pregnancy. All elective procedures, however, should be delayed until after the delivery. (8)
  • Inform your dentist about the dosages and names of all drugs you have been prescribed, as well as any special instructions given by your obstetrician. Your dentist will devise your treatment plan according to this information.
  • Dental X-rays can be done during pregnancy but should be avoided if not urgent. Your dentist will use extreme precaution by shielding you and your baby with a lead apron, before taking the X-ray. They will also cover your throat with a lead collar to protect your throat from radiation. (9)
  • Anesthesia is safe during pregnancy if you have to get your tooth pulled out or you are having a root canal procedure.

Over to you

Pregnancy is a happy and exciting time in your life which brings along with many changes. While some changes are good, some changes may affect your health negatively.

Pregnancy affects your oral health in many different ways. It is essential to maintain proper oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentists during your pregnancy.

The state of your health affects the health of your baby too. Some simple tips and eating right is all you need to ensure that your bundle of joy is healthy and fit.

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