The thought of holding a healthy bundle of joy in your arms makes those 9 months of swollen ankles and late-night stops to the convenience store to satisfy those gherkins-dipped-in-chocolate-sauce cravings all worth it. You’ve made sure you’ve given your body everything it needs, but with so much going on, have you let your dental health slip?
Pregnancy and dental health
Pregnancy is a time for you to bask in that unmistakable glow, and of course, to make sure everything is set up for the arrival of your baby. On that growing list of “things to do before baby arrives”, don’t forget to schedule that check-up with your dentist. With pregnancy comes a few dental issues, which your dentist can help you manage.
How does pregnancy affect your dental health?
Some women make it through pregnancy with no dental issues to worry about, whilst others find that pregnancy has exacerbated pre-exiting dental conditions or created new ones. These dental issues include:
- Pregnancy gingivitis
During pregnancy, hormone levels increase, causing the gums to have a heightened reaction to the constituents of plaque. Symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis include red, inflamed gums that tend to bleed easily. It is important to keep your teeth clean by frequently removing the plaque. Cutting down on sugary foods and drinks can reduce the build-up of plaque.
If you already had gingivitis prior to the pregnancy, it will most likely worsen during the pregnancy if left untreated. Advanced gum disease leads to the deepening of infected pockets that form between the teeth and the gums, allowing bacteria to travel through the bloodstream to various parts of the body, possibly reaching the placenta. Studies have linked gum disease to the delivery of premature and underweight babies, making it essential to ensure that mild forms of gum disease (gingivitis) are treated before it can lead to advanced gum disease.
- Pregnancy tumours
Pregnancy tumours are benign growths on the gums that appear during pregnancy, more often during the second trimester. They are caused by a reaction to food particles and plaque. These glistening red lumps may bleed and cause discomfort when eating and speaking. They generally disappear after the birth of your child; but if the tumour is affecting your eating, your dentist may advise that it be removed. Once removed, it is possible that the tumour will redevelop. You can prevent the occurrence of a pregnancy tumour by practising good dental hygiene, which includes brushing twice a day, regular flossing and washing your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash.
Cavities are small holes in the outer layer of your teeth (enamel) that are caused by the acids in plaque. Plaque is made up of bacteria that feeds off the sugars and carbohydrates in your mouth, acids, saliva and leftover food particles. Unfortunately, during pregnancy, you may be more prone to cavities as a result of:
- Eating more sugars and carbohydrates than usual;
- Morning sickness;
- Infrequent brushing and flossing brought on by exhaustion, tender gums or the compulsion to retch whilst brushing your teeth.
Causes of cavities during pregnancy
If you find yourself craving foods rich in sugar, try and look for a healthier alternative such as fresh, sweet fruit. However, if that fails to satiate your cravings, be sure to rinse your mouth with water, followed by mouthwash after indulging in your sugary treats.
Frequent vomiting increases the amount of acids in your mouth, wearing down your enamel, and making your teeth more prone to cavities.
Tips to protect your teeth:
- Rinse your mouth with plain tap water after vomiting
- Thereafter rinse with a fluoride-containing mouthwash
- Do not brush your teeth immediately after vomiting. Brushing whilst your teeth are coated in acids, can damage the enamel. Rather wait an hour or so before bringing out the toothbrush
- Retching whilst brushing
Sometimes, brushing your teeth (especially the molars) may cause you to retch/dry-heave. The sensation can be extremely unpleasant and may even put you off brushing your teeth- which is detrimental to your dental health. As much as you want to toss your toothbrush aside- it is that toothbrush (and toothpaste) that keeps those cavities at bay. If teeth brushing is triggering your gag reflex, just hang in there and try these tips:
- Brush your teeth using a toothbrush with a tiny head
- Brush slowly and gently, closing your eyes and keeping your mind off the actual brushing process. Try playing music to keep your mind distracted
- If the taste of your toothpaste is triggering the retching, try another brand or simply brush with water, using a fluorinated mouthwash thereafter
Don’t let pregnancy gingivitis or pregnancy tumours stop you from enjoying those special 9 months. Contact our friendly team at Beenleigh Marketplace Dental and let us take care of your pregnancy-related dental issues. Enter motherhood with a healthy, clean mouth, and a bright smile!