Of all the concerns we think about while pregnant, we often overlook oral health. Unfortunately, there are aspects of being pregnant that can have a direct effect on our smiles. The potential impacts affect us and potentially the health of our baby. Taking steps to protect our oral health during pregnancy is also protecting our baby’s future health.
How Our Oral Health Is Affected By Pregnancy
Consider all the changes our body goes through while pregnant. Our skin is stretching, we’re carrying extra weight, and even our pelvic bone widens. Many of these developments are brought on by the higher levels of hormones in our bodies during pregnancy. These hormones can cause inflammation and swelling in the gums, similar to gingivitis. When this occurs, the condition is called “gestational gingivitis” and carries similar risks. Other concerns include:
- Changing Eating Habits – Pregnancy cravings can be powerful. We may find ourselves eating foods we’d otherwise avoid. We may crave sweets or develop a sudden desire to chew ice. These cravings can make us more prone to tooth decay and other oral health concerns.
- Altered Oral Hygiene Habits – Tenderness in the gums, exhaustion, and nausea may result in a tendency to brush less. Brushing and flossing, in particular, are known to cause heightened morning sickness in some women.
- Higher Risk Of Cavities – Both of the above points can make it more likely for us to develop cavities during pregnancy. Morning sickness doesn’t help our case either. The extra acid our teeth are exposed to, as a result, can soften the enamel.
- Gingivitis – Whether from hormone fluctuations or poor oral hygiene, inflamed gums spell gingivitis. Bacteria typically cause gingivitis on the gums. When the bacteria get into the gums, periodontitis can develop. While gestational gingivitis doesn’t come from bacteria, the bleeding is still caused by broken skin. This opening gives bacteria a direct line into our gums.
- Periodontal Disease – Untreated gingivitis of either kind can therefore lead to periodontal disease. This disease poses a serious risk to our gums, teeth, jawbone, and even our babies. Some studies have shown that pregnant women with gum disease are more prone to premature birth.
- Pregnancy Tumors – Most importantly, these are not cancerous tumors. Instead, they are red, raw-looking lumps that form on the gums. They often appear between teeth and are prone to bleeding. In most cases, they’ll disappear after birth, though they may have to be removed otherwise.
These points represent the most common consequences of pregnancy on our oral health. Speaking to your women’s healthcare provider and a dental professional can provide more answers.
Prepare For Your Pregnancy By Teaming With Your Doctors
Whether you’re already pregnant or planning to expand your family soon, it pays to plan. When considering the health professionals that will be part of your pregnancy team, remember to include your dentist. They’ll be able to provide essential support for your oral health throughout all three trimesters. Even more importantly, they’ll be able to help you lower the risk of premature birth by aiding you in preventing gum disease.