Pregnancy and Oral Health
How does pregnancy affect my oral health?
It’s a myth that calcium is lost from the mother’s teeth and “one tooth is lost with every pregnancy.” But you may experience some changes in your oral health during pregnancy. The primary change is a surge in hormones, particularly an increase in estrogen and progesterone, which is linked to an increase in the amount of plaque on your teeth.
How does a build-up of plaque affect me and my baby?
If the plaque isn’t removed, it can cause gingivitis: red, swollen, tender gums that bleed easily. So-called “pregnancy gingivitis” affects most pregnant women to some degree, and generally begins to surface in the second trimester. If you ignore the condition it is likely to worsen during pregnancy. If untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, a more serious form of gum disease. The presence of periodontal disease is linked to premature or low birth weight babies, so your gum health is important to your baby!
Pregnant women are also at risk for developing pregnancy tumours: inflammatory, benign growths that develop when swollen gums become irritated. We usually just leave these tumours alone and they shrink on their own. If a tumour is very uncomfortable and you find that it interferes with chewing, brushing or other oral hygiene procedures, we may decide to remove it. This is done with local anaesthetic (“freezing”), is simple and is safe for you and your baby.
How can I prevent these problems?
You can prevent gingivitis by keeping your teeth clean, especially near the gumline. You should brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and after each meal when possible. You should also floss thoroughly each day. If tooth-brushing causes morning sickness, rinse your mouth with water or with anti-plaque fluoride mouthwashes. Good nutrition, particularly plenty of vitamin C and B12, helps keep your oral cavity healthy and strong. Having your teeth professionally cleaned will help control plaque and prevent gingivitis. Controlling plaque also will reduce gum irritation and decrease the likelihood of pregnancy tumours.
Can I do anything to improve my baby’s dental health?
Absolutely! Studies have clearly shown that the mother’s dental health will have a strong influence on her child’s future dental health! If you have had many cavities in the past, and especially if you currently still get cavities, talk to us about what preventive measures you can take before your baby is even born to prevent him or her from having a similar experience.
When should I see my dentist?
If you’re planning to become pregnant or suspect you’re pregnant and have not had a regular checkup recently, you should come see us right away. Otherwise, you should follow your regular check-up schedule. We will assess your oral condition and map out a dental plan for the rest of your pregnancy. Regardless of when your regular check-up is due, we recommend a cleaning in the second trimester, when we can monitor changes and gauge the effectiveness of your hygiene. Depending your situation, another appointment may be scheduled early in the third trimester, but these appointments should be kept as brief as possible.
Are there any procedures I should avoid?
We prefer to schedule any dental treatment in your second trimester. Women with dental emergencies that create severe pain can be treated during any trimester, but we may need to consult with your physician or obstetrician regarding emergencies that require anesthesia or when medication is being prescribed. We only take x-ray pictures if they are needed for emergencies. Lastly, elective procedures that can be postponed should be delayed until after the baby’s birth.