You may have heard the popular old wives’ tale “a tooth lost for every child.” This myth stems from the belief that pregnancy hormones interfere with calcium absorption, leading to dental problems and missing teeth. While studies do link pregnancy with dental problems, you don’t have to lose your teeth. Through proper oral hygiene, you can prevent and treat common dental problems that occur during pregnancy.
Dental caries, also known as tooth decay, starts as a small patch of softened enamel on the tooth’s surface. The softening spreads to the sensitive part of the tooth, the dentine. Eventually the weakened enamel collapses, forming a cavity, and it progressively destroys the tooth.
Pregnant women have a higher risk of tooth decay due to an increased acidity in the mouth (vomiting as a result of morning sickness), cravings for sugar, and neglect to oral health.
Prevention: Fortunately, caries is fairly easy to prevent. Simply decrease your consumption of sugary foods and brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste. If you find brushing difficult because of morning sickness, switch to a bland-flavoured toothpaste.
Treatment: Early dental caries is reversible. Your dentist may clean your teeth, and if necessary, use crowns and fillings to prevent further damage. If dental caries progresses to the dentine, then your dentist may perform a root canal.
Gingivitis and Periodontitis
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum tissue, resulting in red and puffy gums. In the early stages of gingivitis, bacteria from plaque buildup irritates the gums so they bleed easily during brushing. If left untreated, gingivitis often advances to periodontitis (gum disease). Periodontitis leads to gum shrinkage and loose teeth.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy make gums more sensitive, so it’s easier for gingivitis to develop.
Prevention: In addition to brushing your teeth regularly, flossing helps to prevent gingivitis. Flossing gets plaque out of places your toothbrush can’t reach. A good mouthwash can also kill bacteria that causes gingivitis.
Treatment: Treatment options depend on the stage of the disease. During early stages of gingivitis, simple cleanings at the dentist office can remove plaque and food particles from between teeth and under the gum line. If the disease progresses to periodontitis, treatment may include dental surgery.
Progesterone and estrogen surges during pregnancy affect the ligaments and bones that support teeth, causing them to loosen during pregnancy.
Prevention: Even if you are free of gum disease and have healthy habits, you may still experience loose teeth. Don’t panic – keep in mind that the condition is only temporary. If you keep practicing good oral hygiene, loose teeth will not result in tooth loss.
Treatment: If your loose teeth are caused by other conditions, such as periodontitis, your dentist will recommend treatment based on your condition. Dental implants and bridges can replace missing teeth.
Oral lesions, or mouth sores, can appear on the inner lips, cheeks, gums, and tongue. While experts have yet to discover the exact cause for oral lesions, many sores occur when acid (often found in foods) irritate the soft tissues of the mouth.
Morning sickness during pregnancy exposes the mouth to an increase in gastric acid. This acid not only erodes teeth, but it also causes uncomfortable oral lesions.
Prevention: Pay close attention to what you eat while you’re pregnant. Some foods are likely more irritating to your mouth and stomach than others, so avoid them whenever possible to minimize morning sickness. If you vomit because of morning sickness, avoid brushing your teeth immediately, as this brushes the acid deeper into the teeth and damages the enamel. Instead, rinse your mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in a cup of water.
Treatment: Most oral lesions will fade away on their own, requiring little to no treatment. If the lesion is particularly painful, your dentist may recommend a topical anesthetic.
Don’t let the word “tumour” scare you. Pregnancy oral tumours, or pyogenic granuloma, are raised red marks on inflamed gum tissue. The growths are not cancerous, though they may make eating and speaking uncomfortable.
Pregnancy oral tumours are an extreme reaction to a local irritation or bacteria. They are most common during the second and third trimesters, but they typically recede after delivery.
Prevention: Practicing good oral hygiene minimizes plaque and bacteria buildup that triggers oral tumours.
Treatment: Like oral lesions, pregnancy tumours often disappear on their own. If the tumour is particularly large or painful, your dentist may recommend removing it via a simple surgical procedure.
Ask Your Dentist for Advice
Many women are reluctant to go to the dentist during pregnancy, and this neglect is often the reason why women experience common dental problems. Don’t be afraid to schedule your next dental appointment and inform your dentist that you are pregnant. Your dentist will be able to give you additional guidelines to follow during your pregnancy and can help diagnose and prevent oral problems before they cause long-lasting damage. Contact Abougoush Family Dental Care to schedule your next appointment!