Dental Health and Pregnancy: How They’re Connected and How To Stay Healthy
Growing your family is a thrilling time, but pregnancy can be a bit overwhelming. You have countless things to think about and take care of as you nest for your arriving bundle of joy!
That said, it’s essential to understand how your dental health and pregnancy are connected. Pregnancy can have a significant impact on your oral health; changes in hormones can cause an increase in bacteria and inflammation in the gums, leading to an increased risk of developing gum disease, tooth decay, and other conditions. Staying healthy and minimizing your risks of complications might require you to make some changes to your oral hygiene routine.
In other words, your dental health is a crucial aspect of your overall health, and you shouldn’t neglect it during pregnancy. Here are some tips from Adam Brown DDS for keeping your smile healthy and bright throughout your pregnancy journey!
Changes Pregnancy Can Cause in Your Dental Health
Pregnancy brings many changes to your body, including your dental health. During pregnancy, increased levels of hormones can change the way your gums react to plaque, causing them to become sensitive. This can lead to swollen and bleeding gums known as “pregnancy gingivitis.”
To help minimize discomfort, it’s critical to maintain good oral hygiene habits like brushing twice daily and flossing regularly. If gingivitis persists in spite of these efforts, consult your dentist about other management options.
Gum Disease and Premature Birth
Gum disease can have serious consequences during pregnancy; perhaps most alarming, it has been linked to premature birth. Studies have shown that pregnant women with periodontal disease are six times more likely to give birth prematurely than those without gum disease. Many dental professionals believe that the bacteria that cause gum disease may enter the bloodstream and travel to the uterus, triggering inflammation and preterm delivery.
Premature babies face many challenges from the moment they’re born. With a premature birth comes the risk of underdeveloped organs, low birth weight, and several other health risks that can last into adulthood.
Due to their immaturity, preterm infants often suffer from breathing difficulties and a weak immune system in the first days and weeks of life. These babies can also have complications like brain bleeds, blindness, hearing loss, and many other issues due to their early arrival into the world.
It’s essential to maintain good oral hygiene habits and visit the dentist regularly to detect any signs of gum disease or infection. If they find gum disease, your dentist may need to treat you to reduce the risk of premature birth. Remember that taking care of yourself is critical for ensuring your and your baby’s health; regular dental visits are no exception!
How Your Dental Health Impacts Your Pregnancy
It’s no secret that pregnancy can be a stressful time, both mentally and physically. Fostering your dental health during pregnancy is a simple — but profound — strategy for maintaining your overall well-being. Poor oral hygiene can put you at greater risk of developing conditions like gingivitis, which increases the likelihood of delivering prematurely or having a baby with a low birth weight.
Moreover, if you don’t maintain proper oral hygiene practices, you can increase your chances of getting cavities and gum disease while pregnant, both of which can lead to further health issues. For these reasons (and more), it’s vital to keep up with regular brushing and flossing — as well as regular dental checkups — during pregnancy so that you and baby have the best chance of staying healthy.
Common Oral Health Conditions in Pregnancy
During pregnancy, the body goes through a wide range of hormonal changes that can significantly impact oral health. Pregnancy gingivitis and xerostomia are two of the most common oral health conditions pregnant women face.
Pregnancy gingivitis is an inflammation of the gum tissue caused in part due to higher levels of progesterone, resulting in redness, swelling, tenderness, and bleeding pockets between the teeth and gums. Xerostomia often presents as dry mouth and is caused by increased stress hormones resulting from pregnancy or certain medications prescribed during the course of pregnancy.
Both conditions can lead to cavities because bacteria can build on tooth surfaces more quickly if plaque isn’t regularly removed. Yet another reason for expecting mothers to pay close attention to their oral health with regular visits to the dentist every month during pregnancy!
Here are a few other conditions to be aware of:
Periodontal Disease: Pregnancy hormones can change how gums react to plaque, causing them to become swollen and more prone to periodontal disease. If left untreated, it may lead to infections and pain.
Pregnancy Tumors: These are small benign lesions that can occur in the mouth during pregnancy due to hormone changes. They usually resolve on their own, but if they persist, your dentist may need to remove them.
Tooth Grinding: Stress and hormonal fluctuations can lead to increased tooth grinding or clenching during pregnancy, which can cause a great deal of discomfort and may even lead to worn or broken teeth. Your dentist can provide solutions (such as a mouth guard) to help minimize the amount of damage caused by grinding.
Cavities: Due to changes in hormones, pregnant women are often more prone to cavities. Regular brushing and flossing are essential for preventing the buildup of cavity-causing plaque and bacteria.
Tooth Erosion: Your teeth can erode if acidity levels increase in your mouth due to morning sickness or other changes in dietary habits that are common during pregnancy. Visiting your dentist regularly will help you prevent this from becoming a problem.
How To Recognize Dental Problems When You’re Pregnant
While much of the focus is rightly placed on how to prepare physically and emotionally for the impending arrival of your little one, don’t forget that it’s just as important to make sure your teeth and gums remain healthy. Many expectant mothers experience dry mouth, swollen or bleeding gums, and even loss or deterioration of tooth enamel due to the hormonal fluctuations that come with pregnancy. Some other symptoms of a dental concern include:
- Bad breath
- Mouth sores
- Widened spaces between teeth
- Loose teeth
- Receding gums
To ensure you stay in optimal oral health during this period of increased vulnerability, be sure to maintain regular visits to your dentist. You’ll also want to take precautions like:
- Brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste
- Flossing at least once a day
- Faithfully rinsing with an antimicrobial mouthwash
- Supplementing with baking soda when needed to counteract acidity in your pH balance
- Eating nutritious meals full of vitamins A and C
Taking care of your pearly whites now will help you become a happy and healthier mom, not to mention boost your confidence as you navigate the challenges ahead!
Best Ways To Prevent Dental Problems During Pregnancy
All the steps above are excellent for avoiding dental problems, but you’ll also want to schedule frequent checkups with your dentist and hygienist throughout the duration of your pregnancy to prevent cavities and other issues. Regular visits can also aid in treating any existing or emerging dental issues at an early stage.
It’s also ideal to avoid smoking and drinking alcohol to reduce the risk of developing periodontal disease, which has been linked to preterm labor. Lastly, remember to consult your doctor or dentist before taking any medications when pregnant, as some drugs may have adverse effects on oral health.
Getting X-Rays When You’re Pregnant
Dental X-rays can be a helpful diagnostic tool for dentists to identify any potential dental issues. However, for pregnant women, it’s important to weigh the risks and benefits of getting an X-ray before making a decision.
Generally, dental X-rays are considered safe for pregnant women when necessary. The American College of Radiology (ACR) states that the tiny amount of radiation used in dental X-rays poses no threat to the mother or unborn baby. Plus, modern digital imaging machines have even lower radiation levels than traditional film X-ray machines.
However, if an X-ray is not medically necessary during pregnancy, it’s generally recommended to postpone it until after delivery. This precaution is taken as a safety measure for both mother and baby since any unnecessary exposure to radiation should be avoided whenever possible.
If an X-ray is needed during pregnancy, there are steps you can take to protect yourself even further. Requesting that the technician uses a lead shield or protective garment during the procedure will help block most of the radiation from reaching your stomach area and ensure that your growing baby remains unharmed throughout the process.
Pregnancy is a joyous time, but it can unfortunately bring about changes in your dental health. By being aware of the common oral health conditions that can come with pregnancy, you can be sure to catch them early and avoid any serious problems. And by implementing basic oral hygiene, you can keep your smile healthy and bright throughout your pregnancy. Just remember to schedule your appointment with Adam Brown DDS!
If you’re many other women navigating pregnancy, you might have a few more questions about how you can keep yourself and your baby healthy. Let’s take a look at some common FAQs about dental health and pregnancy:
Q: Is it safe to get my teeth cleaned while pregnant?
A: Yes, regular professional dental cleanings are just as important for pregnant women as those who are not pregnant. Cleanings help remove plaque and tartar buildup and reduce your chances of developing cavities or gum disease. Be sure to inform your dentist that you’re pregnant before your appointment.
Q: What can I do to keep my teeth healthy while pregnant?
A: Keeping your teeth and gums healthy while pregnant is essential for both your own health and the health of your baby. It’s best to brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, and visit your dentist and hygienist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups. Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol throughout the duration of your pregnancy, as well as taking any medications without first consulting with your doctor or dentist.
Q: Can dental work be done during pregnancy?
A: Yes, some types of dental work can be safely performed during pregnancy depending on the trimester and the procedure. Dentists prefer certain procedures earlier in the pregnancy rather than later due to the potential risk of exposing your baby to hazardous anesthesia gases or mercury used.
Q: Can I prevent morning sickness from affecting my dental health?
A: Morning sickness can impact your dental health, but there are steps you can take to minimize its effects on your teeth. Drinking plenty of water, avoiding acidic foods and drinks, rinsing your mouth regularly after vomiting, and getting regular fluoride treatments are a few tactics to keep in mind.