It used to be said that women lost a tooth for every pregnancy, and while that’s not really the case, there is truth behind the link between pregnancy and your dental health. The hormonal fluctuations associated with pregnancy and breastfeeding can exaggerate some dental disorders, and the increased risk doesn’t end until the hormones regulate, usually a few months after breastfeeding ends. An expectant mother’s health – including her dental health – has a big impact on the health of her baby, and that’s why mothers-to-be should take careful care of their teeth and gums during pregnancy.
Gingivitis, gum disease, and cavities
One of the most common oral problems during pregnancy is gingivitis, the term used for the early stage of periodontal disease (gum disease). Gum disease begins with plaque, an invisible bacterial film that forms and builds up on the teeth just below the visible edge of the gums. This plaque creates toxins that irritate the gums, which then become inflamed and bleed easily. This stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis.
Hormonal increases in expectant mothers intensify the way gum tissues react to the irritant in plaque. Additionally, pregnant women tend to eat smaller, more frequent meals, exposing their teeth and gums to sugars and acids more often. These two factors can lead to an increased risk of gum disease. Recent studies have shown a link between gum disease and premature and low birth-weight babies.
There is also increasing evidence that the bacteria responsible for cavities can be transferred from mother to infant.
While some people relate sore gums or tooth loss to pregnancy, it is important to remember that it is the increase in conditions like tooth decay and gum disease that cause tooth loss, not repeated pregnancies. Plaque control and a cavity-free mouth are the best defence, which means that diligent cleaning and regular dental visits are key.
Diet during pregnancy
What you eat during your pregnancy can affect the development of your unborn child’s teeth. Particularly from the third month to the sixth month of pregnancy, you will need sufficient amounts of vitamins A, C, and D, as well as protein, calcium, and phosphorus to ensure healthy teeth for both you and your baby.
Dental appointments during pregnancy
It is very important to keep up with regular checkups and cleanings on schedule during pregnancy. It is also important to move forward with important procedures like crowns or fillings, in order to prevent infections. These types of procedures should be scheduled during the second trimester if possible. Teeth whitening and other cosmetic procedures are generally best left until after the baby arrives.
Routine x-rays during checkups will generally be skipped during your pregnancy, but if an x-ray is necessary for a procedure, it is safe to do so. Talk to your dentist if you are concerned about dental x-rays while pregnant.
Remember that good dental health and care will give your child a good foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles! Contact us to book an appointment, and learn more about Infant Dental Health, Children’s Dental Health, and Diet and Dental Health.