Pregnancy causes huge changes in many parts of your body. But did you know it can affect your teeth and gums?
Hormone changes, food cravings and other aspects of pregnancy can increase your risk of oral health problems like tooth decay and gum disease. The good news is, you can reduce these risks by following good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist more often during this important time.
How can pregnancy affect my oral health?
The old wives' tale that you lose a tooth for every baby just isn't true, nor is the common misconception that a baby needs calcium from your teeth to grow. However, pregnancy can put your oral health at risk in other ways.
Changes in the hormones your body produces during pregnancy can increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease, especially during the second trimester. The blood flow to your gums increases, which can make them feel more sensitive and more prone to swelling or bleeding.
If you notice these symptoms with your gums, you should make an appointment with your dentist. At its early stage (gingivitis), gum disease may be effectively treated, however its advanced stage (periodontitis) is more serious and can lead to tooth loss.
Vomiting puts your teeth in contact with stomach acids. Over time, this can corrode their outer enamel layer, making you more prone to tooth decay and toothaches.
Rinsing your mouth with water after vomiting will help to remove this acid and reduce exposure to your teeth. Gargling with a fluoride mouthwash after rinsing can help to strengthen your teeth.
You should delay brushing until at least an hour after vomiting, as the abrasive brushing action could damage your teeth when they've been in contact with acids.
It's common to get cravings for sugary snacks when you're pregnant. This also increases your risk of dental problems, as sugar feeds the bacteria in your mouth and can cause plaque to form at a faster rate.
The healthier you eat, the less likely you'll be to develop problems. Choose fresh fruits over sweets and explore low-sugar or sugar-free alternatives.
Can dental problems affect my baby?
Multiple studies have suggested a link between gum disease and babies born prematurely with low birth weight.
Although this link is not yet fully understood, it's important that you look after your teeth and gums to reduce the risk of preventable problems affecting you or your child.
How can I reduce my risk?
Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to your oral health. You can make sure your teeth and gums are as healthy as possible by following good oral hygiene. This means:
- brush your teeth at least twice a day
- floss between your teeth at least once a day
- avoid sugary and acidic food and drink
- make sure you're getting enough calcium and vitamin D
- keep up with your scheduled dental visits
If you're planning to get pregnant soon, it's a good idea to visit your local dental clinic even if you're not due for your appointment yet. This gives your dentist the chance to check your oral health and carry out any treatments that are needed before you fall pregnant.
Your dentist may recommend that you visit more frequently during your pregnancy, so they can check the progress of your teeth and gums and respond to any problems quicker. Dental x-rays will usually be avoided during these appointments.
Speak to a dentist in Perth's northern suburbs
If you need to talk to a dentist about your pregnancy or any other issue, contact our friendly team at Ocean Reef Dental Surgery.
 Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine. Periodontitis: A risk for delivery of premature labor and low-birth-weight infants [Online] 2010 [Accessed October 2017] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3217279/