How Pregnancy Affects Oral Health

Pregnancy brings many changes to your body, including your oral health. These changes are primarily due to a surge in hormones like estrogen and progesterone that can cause your gum tissues to exaggerate a normal reaction to plaque. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that covers your teeth. If plaque isn’t removed daily, it can eventually harden into tartar and may increase your risk of gingivitis, a condition with symptoms of red, swollen and tender gums that are more likely to bleed. 

What is pregnancy gingivitis?

"Pregnancy gingivitis" affects most pregnant women to some degree, and it generally begins to surface as early as the second month. If you already have gingivitis, the condition is likely to worsen during pregnancy. If untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease.

Can a mother-to-be lose calcium through her teeth? 

You may have heard the myth that calcium is lost from the mother’s teeth during pregnancy. The calcium your baby needs is provided by your diet, not by your teeth. If dietary calcium is inadequate, however, your body will access this mineral from stores in your bones. An adequate intake of dairy products, green leafy vegetables (e.g., broccoli, kale and mustard greens) or the supplements your obstetrician may recommend will help ensure that you get all the calcium you need during your pregnancy.

What are oral pregnancy tumors?

Pregnant women are also at risk for developing oral pregnancy tumors, which are inflammatory, non-cancerous growths that develop when swollen gums become irritated. Normally, the tumors are left alone and will usually shrink on their own after the baby’s birth. But if a tumor is uncomfortable and interferes with chewing, brushing or other oral hygiene procedures, the dentist may decide to remove it.

How can I prevent these problems?

It’s easy. Just follow these tips:

  • Keep your teeth clean, especially near the gum line. 
  • Brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and after each meal when possible. If brushing exacerbates morning sickness, rinse your mouth with water or with antiplaque and fluoride mouthwashes. 
  • Floss thoroughly each day. 
  • Get more frequent cleanings from the dentist to reduce gum irritation, help control plaque, prevent gingivitis and decrease the likelihood of oral pregnancy tumors. 

How does my oral health affect my baby’s health?

Some research suggests a possible link between gum disease and pre-term, low birth weight babies1. Excessive bacteria can enter the bloodstream through your gums. If this happens, the bacteria can travel to the uterus, triggering the production of chemicals called prostaglandins, which are suspected to induce premature labor. Though findings are inconclusive and further research is needed, we do know preventive dental care during pregnancy improves oral health and overall health and is safe for both mother and child.

Are there any dental procedures I should avoid?

Elective procedures that can be postponed should be delayed until after the baby's birth. But non-emergency procedures generally can be performed throughout pregnancy, with the best time for any dental treatment being the fourth through sixth months. Women with dental emergencies that create severe pain can be treated during any trimester, but your obstetrician should be consulted during emergencies that require anesthesia or prescribed medications. The American Dental Association recommends avoiding routine or elective X-rays during pregnancy.

When should I see my dentist?

First Trimester: You should schedule a checkup in your first trimester to determine whether you need a cleaning. Your dentist will assess your oral condition and map out a dental plan for the rest of your pregnancy. 

Second Trimester: A visit to the dentist also is recommended in the second trimester for a cleaning, to monitor changes and to gauge the effectiveness of your oral hygiene. 

Third Trimester: Depending on the patient, an appointment may be scheduled early in the third trimester, but these appointments should be kept as brief as possible.

If you notice any changes in your mouth during pregnancy, see your dentist. Dental experts say it is important not to overlook oral health care during pregnancy. Your oral health is an important part of your overall health, and good dental hygiene habits not only help prevent oral problems during pregnancy, they may also positively affect the health of your unborn child.

Sources: 

1 Academy of General Dentistry. (2012) . How does pregnancy affect my oral health? Retrieved from www.agd.org

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.