Changes to dental health probably aren’t front of mind for most women in pregnancy, however many women experience changes to their teeth and gums during this time, and it is something worth being aware of, and discussing with your dentist if changes become apparent.
There can be a number of reasons why your dental health may be affected by pregnancy. It may be as a result of changes to diet, morning sickness, or the result of hormones created in the body during this unique time, that have an impact on teeth.
Here we’ll run you through a few things to be aware of regarding your teeth and gums during your pregnancy.
Ways pregnancy may impact dental health
It is well noted that fluctuations in hormones during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause have an impact on the state of a woman’s dental health, and may be the reason why women the world over suffer higher rates of poor dental health compared with rates in men, who experience fewer extreme hormonal fluctuations.
Relaxin is a chemical produced by the ovaries and the placenta, which aids in softening ligaments. This is important, as it helps the body to allow the process of childbirth. Ligaments soften, stretch and allow bones in the pelvic region to temporarily move position during birth.
It is thought that relaxin may also soften other parts of the body as well, including the ligaments that help bind teeth to the gums and jaw.
During, and soon after pregnancy, when relaxin levels are high, women have reported that their teeth have moved position, and X-rays have confirmed this. In some cases, women’s teeth have become more crooked, and in other cases, the movement during pregnancy has led to a correction of crooked teeth. For women wearing braces, the process of moving teeth into a better position has sped up, as they are more pliable during this time.
Note, moving teeth does not occur for all women in all pregnancies, but it is something to be aware of, and to discuss with your orthodontist if you have, or are considering, braces.
It is said that between 60-70% of pregnant women experience pregnancy gingivitis, which is caused by a rise in progesterone. The progesterone leads to a stronger flow of blood to the gums and this can lead to increased sensitivity, and potential bleeding during brushing and flossing.
Pregnancy gingivitis can also see women developing swellings on the gum, known as pregnancy tumours (these tumours are not cancerous and should disappear after you give birth).
Pregnancy gingivitis is unique from periodontitis, however it may progress towards periodontitis, so it is important to try as much as possible to prevent, and/or appropriately manage it with correct brushing and flossing, regular dental check ups, and a balanced diet that includes all the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Pregnancy and cavities
During pregnancy, some women take the opportunity to indulge in treats they’d usually avoid, under the premise that they are eating for two. Whilst this is understandable, the teeth aren’t rendered immune to sugar damage during pregnancy. Cavities can develop, or existing cavities can worsen during pregnancy, and treating them can become more difficult, as X-rays and anaesthetics are usually avoided until after childbirth.
To avoid cavities, it’s best to not indulge your sweet tooth too much, and if you do, ensure you clean your teeth immediately after eating.
Many women experience morning sickness during pregnancy. For some, it may be merely the unpleasant feeling of nausea throughout the day. For others, morning sickness is far more severe, and they may find themselves throwing up on a regular basis.
The acid that rises from the stomach and passes by the teeth during this process is damaging to the teeth, and can erode enamel. Again, if you are throwing up due to morning sickness, rinse your mouth with water immediately, and if possible, clean your teeth as soon as possible.
Pregnancy can be a very tiring time. While your body is working hard to grow a child, it can feel like a struggle to do the simplest of daily tasks, including brushing and flossing. Some women may brush less often, and thus teeth and gum health may deteriorate.
It’s important to continue good dental hygiene habits during pregnancy, so if you are too tired, prioritise cleaning your teeth and leave some other task aside instead.
Beachside Clinic are here to assist you in maintaining good dental health throughout your pregnancy and beyond. If you notice changes to your teeth or gums, or have any concerns, it’s worth coming in to our clinic for a consult. Also, consider scheduling in your next dental checkup before baby is born. It will be much easier to attend your appointment when you’re not yet meeting the demands of a newborn! (We’re more than happy to see you after though.)