How Does Pregnancy Affect Oral Health?
Pregnancy is an exciting and busy period of time. What you may not know is that pregnancy can also impact your oral health. As your body begins to change and hormones are released, this can lead to changes within your oral cavity. It has been well documented that hormonal and lifestyle changes can increase the risk of developing oral health problems such as gum disease and cavities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 60 to 75% of pregnant women suffer from gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to a more severe form of gum disease known as periodontal disease. Gum disease is characterized by inflammation and has been linked to many other systemic health issues. For instance, periodontal disease has been associated with preterm birth and low birth weight, as reported by the CDC. It is important to seek dental help if your gums are frequently bleeding during pregnancy.
Pregnant women may also be more at risk to develop a pyogenic granuloma on the gums due to hormonal changes. This is a small round growth that resembles a raspberry. Fortunately, these tend to resolve on their own without treatment.
In terms of tooth decay, pregnant women have a higher chance of developing dental cavities. This is often due to dietary changes including frequent snacking and sugar cravings, in addition to dry mouth, poor oral hygiene, and increased acidity in the mouth from morning sickness. Morning sickness may cause stomach acid to enter your oral cavity, which can lead to the breakdown of your tooth enamel. Your dental professionals may recommend rinsing with baking soda and water after experiencing acid reflux to help neutralize the acidity. In addition, it is best not to brush your teeth immediately after your teeth are exposed to acids, as this can cause further spread of the harmful acids.
According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women of childbearing age have untreated cavities. Interestingly, cavity-causing bacteria can be transferred to babies via sharing utensils or having mouth to mouth contact. So, improving oral health during pregnancy may benefit your young one!
At-home care throughout pregnancy is very important. Brushing twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and flossing daily to reduce cavity-causing bacteria and gum inflammation are key ways to help prevent dental disease.
In addition, professional dental care is safe and equally as important during pregnancy. Your dental professionals can help you maintain a healthy mouth and pregnancy. Be sure to inform them if you are pregnant, as some adjustments may be necessary to your treatment plan. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), preventive and diagnostic treatments are safe throughout pregnancy, including dental cleanings, restorative procedures (i.e. fillings) dental x-rays, and the use of local anesthetics with epinephrine. Keeping your teeth and gums healthy is crucial for you and your baby’s health.