Many moms are not aware of this, but dental problems in pregnancy have been linked to issues like low-weight babies and preterm birth. This means while it is important to maintain good dental hygiene at any point in your life, it is especially crucial to do so during pregnancy.
What is dental hygiene and how does it impact your pregnancy?
Dental hygiene can be defined as the practice of keeping your mouth, gums, and teeth clean and healthy. It’s an important part of maintaining your overall health, more so if you’re pregnant. Expectant women are more prone to oral health issues, and these issues can affect their pregnancies. For example, there have been studies that indicate there is a link between gum disease and premature birth. Practicing dental hygiene before and during pregnancy can help you have a healthy pregnancy.
Does pregnancy affect your dental health?
The changes that take place in your body during pregnancy can have a significant impact on your teeth and gums. For example:
- Your eating habits may have changed. It’s common to have cravings during pregnancy, and you may find yourself eating more of particular foods than you did before you were expectant. If your cravings include sugary or processed snacks, these kinds of foods can have a detrimental effect on your dental health.
- There is an increase in the levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone in your body during pregnancy. These can make you more susceptible to certain oral health issues.
- You may find yourself brushing and flossing your teeth less often than you did before conceiving. This may be as a result of your gums becoming tender or you’re more exhausted than usual. For some expectant women, brushing and flossing may cause them to retch or gag.
The changes in your body during pregnancy can make you more susceptible to dental issues during pregnancy, including:
Gingivitis is a dental disease that causes inflammation of the gums. According to dentist Dr. Anja Carina Borer, “During pregnancy, there is a 150 times increase in estrogen compared with the amount during a normal menstrual cycle.” She continues “This and the increase of progesterone and other hormones lead to an increased vascular permeability of gingival tissues, which promotes gingival inflammation in the presence of dental plaque.”
60%-75% of moms-to-be suffer from gingivitis. Symptoms of the condition to look out for include:
- Tender gums
- Redness and swelling
- Bleeding gums when you brush or floss
- Persistent bad breath
2. Periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis)
If no action is taken to treat gingivitis, it can lead to periodontal disease, which is a serious gum infection that damages the soft gum tissue, and if left untreated, can destroy the bone that supports your teeth. Dr. Borer explains further, “As we know, untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, the inflammatory burden of which can negatively impact pregnancy.” She goes on to note, “Although more consistent in-depth studies are necessary, periodontitis during pregnancy has already been linked with premature birth, low birth weight, and pre-eclampsia.”
Symptoms of periodontal disease can include:
- Loose teeth
- Collection of pus under your gums or teeth (gum abscesses)
- Bad breath (Halitosis)
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth
3. Pyogenic granuloma (pregnancy tumors)
Pyogenic granuloma is a benign vascular tumor that occurs on the mucous membranes and skin, and occasionally can be found intravascularly or subcutaneously. These lumps can form on the gums, often occurring between teeth. They often appear red and raw and tend to bleed easily.
According to an article in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, pregnancy tumors are caused by the combination of plaque buildup and hormones that contribute to gum inflammation or swelling.
4. Tooth erosion
If you experience vomiting as a result of morning sickness, your teeth may be exposed to excessive stomach acid, which can be harmful to the enamel of your teeth.
The importance of dental checkups before and during pregnancy
It’s important to get dental checkups before and during your pregnancy so that your dentist can pinpoint and treat dental issues early. Some of the information you might need to provide to your dentist at checkups include:
- If you’re expecting or planning to get pregnant
- The names and dosages of all drugs you’re taking. This includes over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines, supplements, and herbal products. This is because your dentist may have to alter your dental treatment plan based on the medication you’re taking.
- Whether or not your pregnancy is high-risk. Your pregnancy may be categorized as high-risk if you have a chronic health condition, complications from a previous pregnancy, or any other conditions that can harm your health or that of your baby.
How can you prevent dental hygiene issues?
- Brush your teeth carefully twice a day
Brush your teeth for at least two minutes with fluoride toothpaste. For a comfortable experience, use a small-headed toothbrush with soft bristles that is easy to hold. Ask your dentist to recommend a good brushing method to get rid of plaque.
- Floss once a day
Floss your teeth once a day to remove bits of food stuck between your teeth to help prevent the buildup of plaque.
- Avoid sugary drinks and sugary and/or processed foods
Avoid sugary drinks and sugary foods or processed foods with high sugar content. The bacteria that exacerbate tooth decay feed off sugar and other simple carbohydrates to produce acid, which wears down the enamel and leads to dental issues.
- Limit your snacking
You tend to produce more saliva in your mouth when eating larger meals, which in turn washes down food particles and lessens acid damage on the enamel. Frequent sugary or simple carbohydrate snacks can have detrimental effects on your oral health.
- Eat healthily
Healthy foods to eat during pregnancy include lean meat, vegetables and fruits, whole-grain foods, and low-fat dairy products. Nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, and D will help your teeth remain healthy and also support the development of your little one’s teeth.
- Drink plenty of water
Drinking water regularly is important for your general health. Water helps to wash out food debris and acid from your mouth. Fluoride (which is commonly found in tap water) helps to build a stronger enamel. Frequent hydration also reduces the likelihood of developing a dry mouth, which makes you more vulnerable to dental problems.
Regular and thorough teeth cleaning should be part of your daily routine to ensure proper dental hygiene. If you’re not sure how to do it properly, speak to your dentist to get tips on how best to clean your teeth. They will also recommend the most suitable toothpaste and toothbrushes to use.