When you’re pregnant, you’re focused on doing whatever you can to take care of your body and your baby. And while rest and good nutrition are healthy essentials, you might be ignoring another part of your health — your teeth.
Pregnancy prompts a lot of changes in your body, your mouth included. Learn why seeing your dentist more frequently during pregnancy is important with the information below.
How Pregnancy Affects Your Teeth
To help prevent bad teeth after pregnancy, you should take care of your oral health while you’re pregnant. Pregnancy can affect your teeth in various ways, but regular dentist visits and brushing your teeth at least twice a day can help you maintain a healthy smile. Understand how pregnancy affects your teeth to know what to look out for.
1. Gingivitis During Pregnancy
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can contribute to gingivitis, or gum disease. Estrogen and progesterone, hormones that change in levels during pregnancy, alter the tissues throughout your body. Your body’s response to plaque also changes when you have increased hormone levels.
With those changes, your gums are more sensitive to bacteria and plaque when you’re pregnant. That can lead to gum disease during pregnancy. You may notice redness, inflammation, swelling and bleeding gums that you didn’t experience before you were pregnant. Signs of gingivitis often appear anywhere between the second and eighth months of pregnancy.
2. Periodontal Disease
Untreated gingivitis can cause periodontal disease, or infection around your teeth. That’s because plaque hardens with time and begins to impact more than your teeth. This disease affects structures like:
- Periodontal ligaments
Infected structural areas around your teeth compromise their health and the overall health of your mouth. If periodontal disease progresses far enough, you may require surgical treatment or tooth removal. Look for signs of swollen, receding or bleeding gums and loose or sensitive teeth as they can signal periodontal disease. This disease causes discomfort and pain, especially when chewing. So it’s important to care for your teeth and watch for signs of gum disease that could progress into periodontal problems.
3. Dysgeusia — Foul Taste in the Mouth
Dysgeusia alters your sense of taste, usually for the worse. Many pregnant individuals discover a metallic taste in their mouths, usually during the first trimester when hormones are on the rise.
While having a bad taste in your mouth doesn’t necessarily affect your teeth, how you try to get rid of the odd taste can. You may see suggestions to eat or drink acidic things — like the ever-popular pickle — to overpower the metallic taste. But acidic foods and drinks can weaken your enamel and compromise the health of your teeth if you have too much too often.
With acidic items no longer an option, you may start to feel that the metallic taste is coming from other sources such as your vitamins. This may cause you to stop taking them and this could impact your overall health along with your dental health.
In addition, a dry mouth can exacerbate the metallic taste. Vrushing your teeth and tongue regularly and drinking enough water daily can improve your taste.
Just as a change in your taste buds can leave you disliking food you loved before, it can also make you crave different foods. If you crave sweets or acidic foods and consume them often, you could risk your dental health.
With sweets, bacteria feed on the sugar, potentially creating cavities. If you’re craving acidic foods and drinks — like fruits, fruit juices and pickles — and consuming them every day, you have an increased risk of wearing away your enamel, which protects the layer of the tooth. That could lead to tooth sensitivity and decay as the protective enamel coating on your teeth wears away.
Still, it can be challenging to ignore your cravings when you’re pregnant. If you consume sweets, be sure to rinse your mouth with mouthwash or brush your teeth. After eating or drinking anything acidic, avoid brushing your teeth right away, as it can affect the enamel structure. Instead rinse with water or mouthwash.
5. Morning Sickness
Acid reflux and vomiting from morning sickness can unfortunately contribute to problems other than discomfort. When you have acid reflux or become sick, the strong acids from your stomach enter your mouth. Just as the acid in foods can threaten your enamel, your stomach acid does the same. Again, this can weaken tooth enamel, creating sensitive teeth or causing tooth decay.
If you do experience morning sickness, avoid brushing your teeth right away. Your toothbrush could scratch the enamel as it’s covered in stomach acid. Instead, rinse with tap water then a mouthwash with fluoride.
6. Ptyalism — Excess Saliva
Excess saliva in your mouth can cause discomfort and usually comes with nausea and morning sickness, often during the first trimester. While saliva is essential for keeping your teeth clean and protected, too much can make it difficult to talk or cause chapped lips. You might also have trouble eating as a result of ptyalism. If you avoid eating the foods you need while you’re pregnant, you deny your body essential nutrients, which also impacts your dental health.
To alleviate ptyalism, you might wish to chew gum or have hard candy. If you do, try to choose sugar-free varieties or else you risk increasing your chance of cavities and gingivitis. Try to brush your teeth or drink water if you have excess saliva instead of reaching for gum or candies for relief.
Preventing Vertical Transmission of Streptococcus Mutans
Streptococcus mutans, or S. mutans, is a type of bacteria and the primary contributor to tooth decay. While infants are not born with this bacteria, parents can pass it through vertical transmission. This type of transmission is the passing of pathogens from the parent to the infant that can occur before birth or after. Once a parent passes S. mutans to their child, the child is at risk for tooth decay, even early on in their life.
This transmission can be passed from the parent to their child through saliva. This can occur by kissing on the mouth or sharing food or drinks. It is possible to prevent vertical transmission of Streptococcus mutans with these measures:
- Maintain dental health: Parents and parents-to-be should take care of their oral health. Brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and visit a dentist regularly. That can help prevent the bacteria from infecting their own mouths, which would then transfer to infants.
- Avoid saliva transfer: Parents should avoid kissing infants on the lips and sharing food, drinks, cups and utensils with children. Let your child have their own utensils and cups and clean them appropriately.
- Clean infant toys and items correctly: Avoid blowing on a pacifier, teething toy or other items your baby drops. Clean them appropriately and not by mouth, which would risk spreading bacteria.
- Keep your infant’s mouth clean: Even if your baby’s teeth haven’t come in yet, you can still take steps to keep their mouth clean. Gently rub a soft, clean washcloth against their gums or use a soft finger brush.
- Help your child maintain their oral health: Once your child’s teeth erupt, help them brush and floss regularly. Begin taking them to the dentist around 2 to 3 years old for regular cleanings to help maintain their dental health.
Going to the Dentist During Pregnancy
Along with proper brushing and flossing, going to the dentist during pregnancy can help maintain a clean smile and your oral health. With so many ways pregnancy can affect your teeth, routine dental cleanings are better for you than skipping dentist appointments. As long as you communicate the fact that you’re pregnant or think you could be to your dentist, they’ll strive to create a safe dental cleaning.
When to Visit the Dentist Throughout Pregnancy
Dental work is safe during pregnancy. And once you know a dental cleaning during pregnancy is safe, you also need to know when to schedule your appointments. You can go to the dentist at almost any point before, during and after your pregnancy. What you decide will depend on your situation, but many pregnant individuals choose to go to the dentist:
- Before getting pregnant: If you’re planning to grow your family, you might consult with doctors in advance. Don’t forget to talk to your dentist, too. Having a dentist appointment before you get pregnant can address any dental issues you have. Those problems might require treatment or surgery, depending on their severity, which you’ll want to schedule before getting pregnant for your convenience.
- During the second trimester: The second trimester is a common time for pregnant individuals to go to the dentist. In fact, the 14th through 20th weeks of your pregnancy might be the best time to visit the dentist.
- During the third trimester: You can safely schedule a dentist appointment during your third trimester. But remember that if you’re this far along in your pregnancy, you may find it challenging to lay back for a long time. Communicate your discomfort or concerns to your dentist throughout your cleaning.
- After pregnancy: Once you’ve recovered from delivery, you may wish to visit the dentist. These visits can address your concerns or issues you noticed later in your pregnancy.
If you want, you can skip a visit to the dentist in your first trimester as you adjust to your pregnancy. If you do, be sure to care for your teeth and your oral health every day. If you do have concerns with your smile in your first trimester, talk to your dentist to see if you’d need a dental cleaning during pregnancy.
Are Dental X-Rays Safe During Pregnancy?
If a dental cleaning during pregnancy reveals an emergency that requires an X-ray, the thought may make you nervous. X-rays use electromagnetic radiation to take images of your teeth, and it’s understandable to have some concerns about potential issues. But high doses of radiation necessary to cause pregnancy issues are only present in certain medical treatments like cancer radiation, not a dental X-ray. You will likely wear a lead apron for your X-ray, as well, protecting your body from 85% to 99% of radiation, of which the levels are already low.
Even with knowing a single X-ray comes with a low exposure risk, you may still have concerns about getting a dental X-ray during pregnancy. Discuss your concerns with your dentist, and they can explain how a dental X-ray is safe. Letting your dentist know you are pregnant or you think you might be pregnant can also help them recommend dental care options.
Tips for Maintaining Oral Health During Pregnancy
Along with maintaining your regular dentist visits, a few more adjustments can help avoid dental problems during pregnancy. Care for your oral health with these tips:
1. Care for Your Teeth Every Day
This step is a simple one you should practice even before getting pregnant. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss regularly. Use a toothpaste with fluoride, and brush with techniques that clean your teeth, the spaces between and your gumline to remove plaque effectively.
To care for your oral health further, use mouthwash. Mouthwash reaches places in your mouth you can’t get to with a toothbrush. Ask your dentist about antimicrobial mouthwashes to help prevent plaque buildup. You can request recommendations for an alcohol-free product to help keep your teeth clean and give you peace of mind as you’re expecting, as well.
If you’re going out anywhere while pregnant, you might want to bring a toothbrush, a travel-size mouthwash and toothpaste. Mouthwash will especially be useful if you experience morning sickness while you’re away from home.
2. Maintain Proper Nutrition
Part of maintaining your oral health during pregnancy involves getting the proper nutrition your body needs. This will be beneficial for your body and your baby, and it’ll also help keep your teeth strong and healthy. Be sure to get these essential nutrients with your diet when you’re expecting:
- Calcium: Drink and eat pasteurized dairy products to get the calcium your body needs. Calcium is essential for bone health, and that benefits your teeth, as well. Spinach and kale are also good sources of calcium and other vitamins you need as a pregnant individual.
- Vitamin D: Your body requires vitamin D to help absorb calcium. Sunlight helps your body produce this vitamin, but limit your exposure and wear a mineral sunscreen if you go outside. You could also eat fortified foods that include vitamin D.
3. Take Vitamins and Supplements as Directed
If you can’t get the proper nutrition you need during pregnancy, your doctor might recommend taking vitamins or supplements. Remember to discuss whether you should take vitamins with your doctor and which you should take when pregnant. Take your supplements as directed to help your body get the nutrition it needs and maintain a healthy body and smile.
4. Avoid Tetracycline
If you require any antibiotics after dental work during pregnancy, be sure to let your dentist know you’re pregnant. They’ll likely recommend an antibiotic other than tetracycline. This antibiotic can have potential risks during pregnancy, including discoloring a developing baby’s teeth. Doctors recommend that those in their 15th week of pregnancy and beyond avoid tetracycline.
Contact Dental Choice to Schedule Your Appointment
When you’re ready to seek a dental cleaning during pregnancy, choose Dental Choice. At Dental Choice, we strive to provide dependable services for our patients. We’ve worked toward that goal for over 20 years, so if you’re expecting, rest assured that we want to offer compassionate care to everyone in your family.
Contact us today to request an appointment and learn more about why seeing a dentist during pregnancy is important.