Ever wonder how your pregnancy can affect your oral health? Many new mothers experience different symptoms from pregnancy and many times oral side effects are one of the first to appear. Here are some things you should prepare for during your pregnancy.
– Pregnancy Gingivitis
Because pregnancy causes hormonal changes, you are at an increased risk for gingivitis. Gingivitis is characterized by red, swollen, tender gums that may bleed easily. The removal of tartar can help improve gingivitis; therefore it is important to keep regular dental checkups, even if you are pregnant. Not only can gingivitis lead to an even more severe dental disease called periodontal disease, but it can also affect your baby. Research suggests a link between gingivitis and pre-term, low birth weight babies. Excessive bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the gums and can travel to the uterus which triggers the production of chemicals called prostaglandins, which are suspected to induce labor. Many new mothers ask if x-rays are safe while pregnant, and the answer is yes. Your dental professional should place a lead apron over you that is equipped with a thyroid collar and this will block any stray radiation from reaching you and your baby. It is best to schedule your cleaning during your second trimester. This protects your baby, as the first trimester is the key time for development, and the third trimester can be uncomfortable to lie for a long period of time. Any elective dental treatment should be done after delivery.
– Enamel Erosion
Another symptom of pregnancy is morning sickness. Many women experience vomiting during their pregnancy, not only restricted to the morning, but many times throughout the day. Constant vomiting causes damage to the enamel. Vomiting that continues for an extended period of time as well as increased gastric reflux contributes to what is called enamel erosion. If left on the teeth, the acid from the stomach contents can break down enamel and lead to a higher risk of cavities. The first instinct for most people is to brush their teeth after vomiting. This actually can also add to the acidity in the mouth and brushing motions can remove the enamel. The best thing to do after vomiting
is to rinse with water and wait 20 minutes to brush, or you can rinse with a baking soda mixture to neutralize the stomach acid. Your saliva also has a natural buffer that will help to restore the mouth to its natural basic environment.
– Dry Mouth
Once again due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, there can be a lack of saliva production, also known as xerostomia. This is not only uncomfortable, but it can also affect your oral health. Without enough saliva to wash away debris and to control bacteria in your mouth, your teeth and gums are more susceptible to plaque buildup and cavities. The best way to relieve dry mouth is to increase your intake of fluids. Sucking on ice chips can help moisturize your mouth and serve as a bonus to help relieve pregnancy nausea. Sucking on candy or chewing gum can help stimulate saliva flow as well. Some other options are to sleep with a humidifier throughout the night or use saliva substitutes such as oral gels or mouthrinses to moisten the mouth.
As always, make sure your dentist is aware of your pregnancy and any medical concerns or medications you may be taking. Taking care of your oral health leads to a healthy body and a healthy baby.