When a woman falls pregnant, her whole body changes – including her oral health. Good oral health is important for good gestation and healthy babies. Here are some things to keep in mind should you be expecting:
Morning sickness is related to increased hormone levels and resultant metabolic changes in the body, and has a direct impact on dental health.
The repeated influx of stomach acid into the oral cavity can lead to a softening of tooth enamel. Persistent exposure may cause tooth decay and sensitivity. Brushing shouldn’t be done immediately after vomiting as the risk of erosion of the softened enamel is high.
Gingivitis is a condition where the gums become swollen, red, tender, and inflamed. This happens due to plaque and bacteria building up in the oral cavity. Generally, poor oral hygiene and inadequate cleanings are responsible for gingivitis however pregnancy brings a rush of hormones, including progesterone which elevates the immune response to plaque and bacteria; 75% of women falling prey to it. Deep cleaning is recommended even in the second and third trimesters.
Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to a more serious gum condition called periodontitis, an inflammatory condition has serious and direct effects on the foetus.
The immune response to the spreading infection and bacterial flora produces cytokines, prostaglandins, and other substances which act directly on the foetus. This can trigger preterm labor. Periodontitis has also been associated with low birth weight and the development of preeclampsia.
These are soft, smooth, red, berry-like growths that appear on the gums during pregnancy. Other names for pregnancy tumours are pyogenic granuloma, granuloma of pregnancy, and lobular capillary hemangioma.
These lesions affect about 10% of pregnancies and usually appear in the setting of pre-existing pregnancy gingivitis, most commonly in the second trimester.
Surgically removing these granulomas is not necessary unless they cause complications and usually disappear on their own after pregnancy.
In pregnancy the high levels of progesterone and estrogen act on the tissues and bones of the oral cavity. In addition, when gingivitis advances to periodontitis, gums may recede and bone may be lost from the jaw. Infection in the structures around the teeth combined with the loss of bone can result in loose teeth. Good care of gums through deep cleaning, scaling, and proper oral habits help keep this in control.
Planning for oral health during pregnancy
Planning for pregnancy needs to include plans to maintain good oral health. Your visits to the dentist should be consistent in the time period surrounding pregnancy.
Inform your dentist about your pregnancy in the earliest stages to head any issues off at the pass, and to ensure only dental x-rays with appropriate shielding is used. As always, regular cleaning and checkups of your oral habits are a must.