“It’s just one night of not brushing and flossing,” you tell yourself. “I’m so busy and so tired… I’ll do it tomorrow.”
One day turns into two, and before long, you can’t remember the last time you flossed. You’re pretty sure you’re not brushing as much as you used to, either.
We get it! As exciting a time of life as being pregnant is, it’s also a time when preparations become all consuming.
Makes it really easy to give in and… eat what you want when you want — You’re eating for two, right? — then crawl into bed at the end of the day without a single thought about your teeth.
But the health of your teeth is even more important when you’re pregnant. Here’s what you should know about dental care during pregnancy.
How Pregnancy Affects Oral Health in Expectant Moms
It’s no secret that the rising hormones women experience when they’re pregnant create a lot of changes in their bodies. But did you know that those hormonal changes impact the mouth and teeth, too?
Teeth get looser – One way the hormones impact the mouth is loosening the teeth. If this happens to you, don’t panic. It doesn’t always happen, doesn’t usually cause teeth to actually fall out, and doesn’t usually stick around once the baby’s born. But during the pregnancy, the high hormone levels cause the gums to relax more, giving the teeth a little more wiggle room than normal.
Gums become more sensitive – The gums may relax more; they may also become more sensitive… to the point of being extremely sore and bleeding. We call this condition “pregnancy gingivitis” because it tends to be symptomatic only during the pregnancy and to resolve itself afterward.
Other impacts of pregnancy on oral health include:
Risk for cavities gets higher – When someone who’s pregnant experiences new cravings, she may end up snacking on unhealthy foods that are high in carbs or sugar. Pair the snacks with changes in routine — such as not brushing or flossing as much because of tiredness — and the setting is right for cavities to form.
Risk for tooth decay increases – When morning sickness causes nausea and vomiting, the teeth become coated in acid from the stomach, making them at increased risk for erosion and decay.
Risk for pregnancy tumors goes up – Although they’re usually harmless and disappear after a baby’s born, growths may form in the mouth when someone’s pregnant. Colgate says the growths are partly due to high levels of hormones and partly due to poor brushing and flossing habits.
How Pregnancy Impacts Dental Health in Babies:
Not only does an expectant mother’s care for her teeth impact her own health; it also impacts the health of the little one she’s carrying. In fact, an expectant mom can set a baby up for good oral health by taking care of her own teeth while she’s pregnant.
The American Academy of Pediatrics points out the connection:
- When a pregnant woman has left her gum disease untreated, her overall health and well being is at risk. She’s also more likely to give birth prematurely or have a baby that experiences low birth weight.
- Moms put their children at risk for tooth decay because they sometimes pass cavity-causing bacteria on to their babies unintentionally.
- Moms with untreated tooth decay will have children that are three times more likely to follow in her footprints.
How the Dentist Can Help
Knowing that it’s important to make your dental health a priority during pregnancy may not be enough to keep it a priority when preparations for the baby take center stage.
Let your dentist help! Here are a few ways the dentist can be your ally during your pregnancy:
- Keep you informed about what’s normal and not during pregnancy. Whether you experience bleeding gums, loosening teeth, or pregnancy tumors, your dentist can let you know when what you’re experiencing needs more than just a once over.
- Ease your mind. Getting an expert opinion on the changes in your mouth can help you rest easier.
- Maintain your dental help by preventing cavities and addressing problems as they arise. When you keep your regular appointments with your dentist while you’re pregnant, you’ll stay on top of any problems, catch cavities early, and prevent small dental changes from becoming big concerns.
What Happens If You Need Dental Work While You’re Pregnant
You may find that you need more than a routine cleaning while you’re pregnant. It’s important to know what you can take care of during a pregnancy and what needs to wait.
The American Pregnancy Association gives great guidance. Non-emergency dental work should wait until the second trimester, whenever possible… or until after the baby comes. Elective procedures definitely go on the after-delivery list. Regular cleanings and preventive exams? Stay on schedule, says the APA.
They also offer helpful advice for taking care of yourself during a trip to the dentist:
- Be sure to tell your dentist you’re pregnant.
- Take a pillow with you so you’ll stay as comfortable as possible throughout the appointment.
- Keep your legs uncrossed so you don’t have any problems with circulation while you’re sitting in the dentist’s chair.
What Healthy Habits Should Continue Throughout Pregnancy
We understand that it may become challenging to keep up your regular dental routines the further along you get. But keeping your teeth healthy is one of the most important things you can do for your health and the health of your newborn.
Be sure to continue:
- Brushing at least twice a day.
- Flossing at least once.
- Seeing your dentist on your regularly scheduled visits.
- Eating healthy.
Note that if morning sickness is getting the best of you and you’re tossing your breakfast every day, be sure to rinse your mouth out after you’ve gotten sick. Use one teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water. Rinsing helps protect your teeth from the acid they’re exposed to when you throw up.
If you have questions about what to expect when you’re expecting, reach out to TrueCare Dentistry. We’ll help you take good care of your teeth throughout your pregnancy.
Exceptional Is Not Uncommon
At TrueCare Dentistry, you will experience exceptional dental care that is focused on maximum patient comfort. We offer the best chair-side manner from check-in to check-out. Contact us for an appointment or to learn more: 919.859.1330