How Does Pregnancy Affect My Oral Health
Oral Health

How Does Pregnancy Affect My Oral Health

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Hormones, cravings and other changes in your body can take their toll on your teeth and gums. Find out how to avoid dental problems during pregnancy.

3 minute read

You may be prepared for some of the dramatic changes your body will go through during pregnancy, but you might not be aware of how pregnancy can affect your teeth and gums.

The old wives' tale that 'you lose a tooth for every child' is no longer true (if it ever was) thanks to modern dental care, but it is true that hormone changes and other aspects of pregnancy can impact on oral health in many ways.

When you know what these risks are – and how to minimise them – you can focus on getting ready for your new arrival without having to worry about emergency dental visits!


What oral health problems are linked with pregnancy?

Not all women experience dental problems during pregnancy, but pregnancy can increase your risk of developing a number of issues. Read more about:

  • Gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis)
  • Tooth wear from vomiting
  • Tooth decay from sugar cravings
  • Other risks


Gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis)

Gum disease is the infection of the gum by bacteria that build up on teeth to form plaque around the gum line. The body fights the infection with inflammation (swelling) of the gums, which can make them sensitive or bleed when you brush your teeth. This is the early stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis.

If gum disease is not treated, it can advance into periodontitis. This can permanently damage the gums and cause them to pull back from the teeth. Periodontitis can also damage the structures holding teeth in the jaw, causing teeth to loosen or eventually fall out.

Hormone changes during pregnancy can increase the risk of gum disease developing, as blood flow to the gums and the body's response to bacteria are altered. This is especially common during the second trimester and is even known as pregnancy gingivitis.

Gum disease treatment depends on how far the disease has advanced:

  • In the early stages, your dentist or hygienist will professionally clean and scale your teeth to remove plaque and may recommend ways to improve your daily oral hygiene routine.
  • Advanced gum disease may require more intensive treatments such as deep scaling, root planing or minor surgery to remove all traces of bacteria.

Your gum disease risk should return to normal levels after pregnancy.


Tooth wear from vomiting

Vomiting caused by morning sickness and gastric reflux influenced by pregnancy hormones can expose teeth to strong stomach acids. Frequent exposure to these acids may erode or weaken tooth enamel making it more vulnerable to damage.

You may be doing even further damage to teeth if you brush soon after vomiting, as this strips away the protective layer of enamel. If you can, wait an hour before brushing and instead rinse your mouth with water or eat or drink something that helps to neutralise acids, such as milk or cheese.

Your dentist may also recommend using a fluoride mouthwash to help strengthen and protect teeth. If your teeth are worn or damaged, tooth bonding or other dental treatments could help to restore them.


Tooth decay from sugar cravings

Giving in to cravings for sugary snacks or drinks during pregnancy can contribute to tooth decay by feeding bacteria in plaque. These bacteria release acids that wear down teeth and can form cavities.

Choosing low-sugar or sugar-free alternatives will help to lower your tooth decay risk. Your dentist or other health professionals may be able to recommend healthy sugar substitutes to satisfy cravings.

Giving in occasionally is okay so long as you remember to drink tap water at the same time to rinse away some sugar and allow the fluoride in the water to help protect your teeth. It's also important to maintain good oral hygiene every day.

If your teeth have already been damaged by decay, this should be treated by a dentist as soon as possible to prevent the disease from spreading. You might also find it easier to arrange an appointment prior to baby arriving. Small tooth cavities may easily be repaired with white fillings.


Other risks

Pregnancy may also increase the risk of dry mouth, a condition affecting the salivary glands which in turn increases your risk of developing decay and gum disease.

Some women also develop swelling on the gums, known as pregnancy epulis or pyogenic granuloma. These may bleed when brushed, but they are otherwise benign and will normally disappear after pregnancy.


Can oral health problems affect my baby?

Oral health is linked with overall health in many ways, and may impact on a developing baby. Research has found that severe gum disease may increase the risk of babies being born prematurely and with a low birth weight, making it even more important to keep gums healthy.


How to lower your risks

There's already so much to deal with during pregnancy, but it's important that you don't let your oral hygiene routine slip so you will be less likely to develop gum disease and other problems. Dentists recommend:

  • Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Flossing between your teeth once a day
  • Limiting sugary and acid foods and drinks
  • Following a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, especially calcium and vitamin D
  • Avoiding tobacco and alcohol
  • Visiting the dental clinic for regular check-ups and hygiene treatments

If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, try brushing more gently and make sure you're using a toothbrush with soft bristles.


Can I visit the dentist if I'm pregnant?

Visiting the dentist for a check-up is recommended if you're planning to get pregnant or already pregnant, even if you're not due for your routine check-up yet.

Your dentist will check for any existing conditions and may provide hygiene treatments to help lower your oral health risks. Depending on your risk profile, your dentist may recommend having more frequent check-ups during and after your pregnancy.

Elective dental treatments will normally be delayed until after pregnancy. If any urgent treatments are needed, your dentist will take appropriate precautions to help protect you and your child, such as avoiding routine x-rays unless strictly necessary and certain types of sedation and medication.


Talk to a dentist in East Victoria Park

Are you planning to get pregnant or already pregnant and want to see a professional about your oral health? Contact our friendly team at EVP Dental to arrange an appointment with our dentists in South Perth.

Call us today on (08) 9470 3944 for a booking or advice or book online for a time that suits your busy schedule.