There’s a popular old wives saying that goes: “for every baby a woman has, she is bound to lose a tooth.” The idea behind this belief is that pregnancy and childbirth can have a negative impact on a woman’s oral health. While it is true that pregnancy can affect a woman’s dental health, the saying is not entirely accurate. In fact, proper dental care during pregnancy can help prevent many of the issues that may arise.
Pregnancy hormones can cause changes in a woman’s oral health that make them more susceptible to gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss. This is because the changes in various hormones tend to make the gums more sensitive and susceptible to bacteria, which can lead to infection and inflammation.
Additionally, pregnancy cravings and morning sickness can increase the risk of tooth decay by exposing the teeth to a more acidic environment.
It is these situations that put pregnant women at greater risk of oral problems. But with enhanced oral hygiene and dental care practices, such as regular dental checkups, brushing and flossing regularly, and a maintaining healthy diet, many of these issues can be successfully prevented, or detected and addressed in their early stages before they result in serious consequences.
Oral changes during pregnancy and preventive measures
During pregnancy, the body undergoes various hormonal changes that can lead to different oral and facial changes, including:
This is a type of gum disease that occurs during pregnancy due to hormonal changes in the body that lead to increased blood flow to the gums. The result is inflammation and swelling, as well as other symptoms of gingivitis like gums bleeding, tenderness, and redness.
If left untreated, pregnancy gingivitis can advance to a more severe form of the disease, known as periodontitis, which can cause tooth loss and affect the health of the baby.
Therefore, it is important for pregnant women to take care of their oral health by brushing and flossing regularly and visiting their dentist for check-ups and cleanings. Dental professionals can also provide specific instructions for oral hygiene during pregnancy and recommend appropriate treatments for managing pregnancy gingivitis.
Gingival hyperplasia is a condition in which the gum tissue becomes enlarged and starts to grow over the teeth. This can make it difficult to clean the teeth properly, leading to increased plaque buildup and inflammation.
Elevated levels of the hormone estrogen during pregnancy cause an increased capillary permeability, which can predispose pregnant women to gingivitis and gingival hyperplasia. This condition usually affects the marginal and the interdental papilla, and it is related to preexisting gingivitis.
Good oral hygiene, such as regular brushing and flossing, can help in preventing or reducing the severity of this condition.
Pyogenic granuloma is a benign tumor that can occur in pregnant women, especially in the first and second trimesters. It appears as a red or pink nodule on the gum tissue that bleeds easily. The condition is believed to be caused by increased blood vessel formation and gingival irritation.
Good oral hygiene is important for prevention. If you detect the symptoms, you should visit your dentist for an assessment to confirm the diagnosis before treatment, which may include topical medications, cryotherapy, curettage, surgical excision, or laser therapy.
Salivary changes during pregnancy involve alterations in the flow, composition, pH, and hormone levels of saliva. This typically involves:
Reduced salivary flow rate, even with stimulation:
Saliva helps to maintain a healthy oral environment by washing away food particles and neutralizing acids produced by bacteria in the mouth. The reduction in salivary flow rate can be caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy, as well as dehydration, stress, and certain medications.
This can result in a dry mouth, which can lead to an increase in dental caries, gum disease, and oral infections, since saliva helps to maintain the pH balance in the mouth and reduce the growth of harmful bacteria. Pregnant women who experience reduced salivary flow may also be more susceptible to bad breath (halitosis), as well as oral discomfort and difficulty wearing dentures.
Therefore, pregnant women should be aware of the potential impact of reduced salivary flow on their oral health and take steps to maintain good oral hygiene, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and consult with their dentist if they experience any oral discomfort.
A decrease in the sodium concentration:
A decrease in the sodium concentration may be seen in cases of excessive vomiting or diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and other complications if not managed properly. Pregnant women are already more susceptible to dehydration due to increased fluid demands, so a decrease in sodium concentration can exacerbate this risk.
A decrease in pH levels:
In terms of pH levels, a decrease may indicate acidosis, which can be caused by a variety of factors such as uncontrolled diabetes, kidney disease, or respiratory disorders. Acidosis can have serious implications for both the mother and the fetus, including fetal distress, premature delivery, and even fetal death. Therefore, it is important for pregnant women to maintain a healthy pH level through proper nutrition, hydration, and medical management of any underlying conditions.
Higher levels of estrogen hormone in saliva:
Estrogen is a hormone that increases during pregnancy and can cause changes in a woman’s body, including in her mouth. It can cause the cells in the mouth to grow and shed more often, and also increase the amount of fluid in the space between the teeth and gums. This can create a good environment for bacteria to grow, which can lead to cavities. So, if a pregnant woman has high levels of salivary estrogen, her dentist may want to keep an extra eye on her oral health to prevent cavities and other oral problems.
An increase in the protein levels in saliva:
This may promote bacterial growth, leading to a greater risk of dental caries and periodontal disease. Additionally, high protein levels in saliva can cause dry mouth, which can lead to a range of oral health problems, including bad breath, difficulty speaking and swallowing, and an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Pregnant women should be aware of the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene practices to minimize this risk.
While morning sickness can cause erosion of the enamel on the inner surface of the teeth, frequent vomiting can result in the loss of tooth enamel. However, this is a concern only in extreme cases, and can be prevented by rinsing the mouth with a sodium bicarbonate solution.
Tips for good oral health during pregnancy
Getting oral health care, practicing good oral hygiene, eating healthy foods, and practicing other healthy behaviors are all essential in keeping you and your baby healthy during pregnancy. Neglecting your oral health during pregnancy can lead to serious dental problems and increase the risk of complications for the both of you.
Here are some tips to maintain optimal oral health
Get regular oral health care throughout your pregnancy, including necessary dental work
Delayed dental treatment is associated with significant risks, such as tooth infections that could spread throughout your body. Before delivery, it’s recommended to get oral health treatment as advised by your dental professional. If you haven’t visited the dentist in the last six months or have any oral health issues, you should schedule a dental appointment as soon as possible and inform them about your pregnancy and due date.
Practice good oral hygiene
Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, replace your toothbrush every three to four months, and clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.
Rinse your mouth every night with an over-the-counter fluoridated, alcohol-free mouthwash. Chewing xylitol-containing gum or using other xylitol-containing products can help reduce bacteria that cause tooth decay.
If you vomit, rinse your mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water to stop acid from attacking your teeth.
Eat a balanced and healthy diet
This is essential for your health and your baby’s development, including that of the teeth. It’s recommended that you a variety of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain products, dairy products, meats, fish, chicken, eggs, beans, and nuts.
At the same time, you should avoid foods high in sugar like candy, cookies, cake, and dried fruit, and drink fewer beverages high in sugar, despite any cravings you might get. If you have to, choose snacks that are low in sugar, such as fruits, vegetables, cheese, and unsweetened yogurt.
It’s also a good practice to drink water throughout the day, especially between meals and snacks.
Finally, practicing other healthy behaviors during pregnancy is vital. Attend prenatal classes and stop any use of tobacco products, recreational drugs, and alcohol consumption. Avoid secondhand smoke to protect yourself and your baby from harmful chemicals.
In summary, taking care of your oral health during pregnancy is crucial for you and your baby’s health. Getting oral health care, practicing good dental hygiene, eating healthy foods, and practicing other healthy behaviors can help keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy.