Can Dental Problems Affect Pregnancy?
Being pregnant should certainly give you something to smile about, but it’s important to look after your smile as well as your growing baby. While pregnancy doesn’t automatically damage your teeth, the demands on your body can lead to particular dental problems. And, those dental problems can, in turn, affect your health and that of your baby. That’s why it’s even more important than usual to look after your teeth during pregnancy. By practicing good oral hygiene and taking into account the changes that are happening within your body, you can reduce the risk of dental problems affecting your pregnancy.
How Pregnancy Changes Oral Health
Ensuring you have a healthy mouth during pregnancy is important for both mums-to-be and their babies. With all the hormones racing around when you’re pregnant, your gums can become more sensitive, and left untreated this can lead to further health problems. There are three main causes of dental health problems during pregnancy:
- Gum problems – as we’ve mentioned, pregnancy-related hormones can make your gums more sensitive, vulnerable to plaque and susceptible to disease. Gums are more likely to become inflamed during the second trimester and can swell and bleed. When left untreated this can lead to chronic gum infection and, in serious cases, tooth loss. Gum problems don’t occur due to increased plaque so much as a worsened response due to your changing hormones.
- Morning sickness – as well as affecting your gums, those tricky pregnancy hormones soften the muscle that is meant to keep food inside your stomach. What this means is that you are likely to be sick more often. Repeated reflux and vomiting can coat your teeth with strong stomach acids, which can damage tooth enamel and increase the risk of decay.
- Sweet cravings – you are probably familiar with the concept of pregnant women getting cravings. Unfortunately, while sometimes for the weird and wonderful, more often than not cravings involve sugary foods. A regular desire for all things sweet can increase your risk of tooth decay.
How Dental Problems Impact Pregnancy
It’s a two-way street when it comes to dental health and pregnancy. While it may seem more obvious that changing hormones and habits will impact on your dental health, your dental health can also impact your pregnancy and your baby. Research has found an increased link between gum disease and premature births and low birth weights. If born prematurely, babies risk additional health conditions such as cerebral palsy and problems with their sight and hearing. With such serious potential impacts, it’s vital to keep your teeth and gums healthy during pregnancy.
How to Take Care of Your Oral Health During Pregnancy
It’s all very well and good knowing that there is a link between oral health and pregnancy, the trick, however, is knowing how to take care of yourself. To help protect your dental health, try to follow these tips:
- Brush your teeth – use a small, soft or extra-soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to brush your teeth and gum line using small circles twice a day and use floss to clean between your teeth and down to the gumline daily
- Rinse if you’re sick – brushing your teeth straight after you’ve been sick can speed up tooth erosion. Instead, either rinse your mouth with water, rinse with fluoride mouthwash or chew sugar-free gum.
- Consider your general health – conditions such as diabetes can increase the risk of gum disease during pregnancy. Make sure you discuss your general health and any conditions you have with your dentist.
- Change your diet – maintain a healthy, balanced diet, avoid acidic drinks and snack on low-sugar foods if you can. If you need something to hit that sweet-spot, choose fresh fruits and rinse your mouth after. Dairy-based foods can help to neutralise acids and protect your teeth from decay as well as giving your body the extra calcium and vitamin D it needs. Meanwhile, if you feel sick, try healthy plain foods.
- Stop smoking – smoking further increases the risk of gum disease when pregnant. There are many reasons why it is bad for your health and that of your growing child, stopping smoking is the only way to reduce the risks.
- Visit the dentist – make sure you go for a dental check-up if you’re pregnant or considering trying for a baby. If you have any dental problems, you can make sure they’re treated before the baby is born. And, of course, make sure to keep up with your regular appointments during your pregnancy too.
Talk to Your Dentist About Your Pregnancy
Whether you’re already pregnant, are planning to start trying or have just given birth, it’s worthwhile talking to your dentist about your pregnancy. Your dentist will be able to check your gums and ensure that any issues are dealt with before they get worse and impact your health or that of your baby. There are some treatments that aren’t advised during pregnancy. However, your dentist will be able to make sure that you have a treatment plan that puts your pregnancy first, just make sure that you tell them.