There’s an old adage many will have heard that goes “gain a child and lose a tooth”. This belief was supposedly based on the common assumption that when pregnant, you lose calcium from your teeth to give to the developing baby. This theory has been proven to be false and women’s teeth do not “soften” during pregnancy.
There are however a number of dental issues that may arise due to hormonal changes when pregnant.
Some expectant mothers may be reluctant to seek dental treatment during pregnancy, fearing that it is not safe to have a routine dental examination and clean during pregnancy. It is infact absolutely imperative that women maintain their oral health regime during their pregnancy. Be sure to let your treating Dentist know you are pregnant though.
The most commonly experienced problem during pregnancy is that of red and swollen gums due to higher levels of hormones which increases blood flow to the gums. Gums can therefore be more sensitive, irritable and swollen. Pregnancy may aggravate pre-existing Gingivitis (inflamed gums) and the huge levels of hormones may alter the body’s response to bacteria, enabling plaque to build up on teeth making you more susceptible to Gingivitis. Pregnancy Gingivitis is characterised by gums that appear dark red, swollen, and bleed easily.
Very rarely, a woman with pregnancy Gingivitis may develop localised gum swellings around their teeth. These localised swellings usually resolve within a few months of delivery, provided all local irritants (bacteria/plaque/calculus) are eliminated. If swelling occurs, it is generally managed at the time by your Dentist.
The number of decay forming bacteria may increase in pregnancy. Changes in salivary composition also occur in late pregnancy and during lactation which may temporarily predispose you to dental decay and tooth erosion. This could also be exacerbated by the consumption of foods with high sugar content.
Morning sickness and subsequent vomiting during pregnancy also predisposes towards acid attack on teeth. If you do vomit, it is best to freshen your mouth by rinsing with water and possibly a fluoride containing mouth rinse, rather than brushing your teeth immediately (wait a good half hour before brushing).
The best way to avoid pregnancy related tooth problems is through practising good oral hygiene, including daily brushing and flossing. Ideally, have a dental check prior to becoming pregnant to ensure teeth and gums are in a good state prior to pregnancy, and continue with regular dental checks during pregnancy. If you do have any concerns with your teeth during pregnancy, it is best to see your dentist immediately, please don’t delay. Treatment can be provided safely during pregnancy without causing harm to the baby.
B.D.S(Hons).(Syd). MDSc (Melb, Grad.Dip.Clin.Dent (Oral Implants), Grad.Dip.Clin.Dent (Conscious Sedation & Pain Control), FRACDS, FPFA, Senior Clinical Associate (Uni of Syd), Dental Surgeon.