pregnant dental patient holding their baby bump in front of white satin curtains

The Importance of Maintaining Oral Health Throughout Every Stage of Pregnancy

From morning sickness and heartburn to fatigue and swollen feet, pregnancy affects nearly every part of a woman’s body, and oral health is no exception.

As your hormones change throughout your pregnancy, you might not realize that it can also affect the health of your teeth and mouth, and even increase your risk of gum disease. And with any potential dental ailments left untreated, the risk of infection increases, potentially leading to premature labour and low birth weight.

What Dental Problems Are Caused by Pregnancy and Why?

Common oral health problems during pregnancy include:

Morning Sickness

Frequent vomiting during pregnancy can expose your teeth to stomach acid which wears down your tooth enamel, putting you at higher risk for tooth decay, erosion, and infection. If you are experiencing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, it’s important to follow these three steps to maintain the integrity of your teeth:

  1. Immediately after vomiting, rinse your mouth out with water or alcohol-free mouth wash.
  2. Wait at least 30 minutes after rinsing your mouth before eating or drinking to further reduce the acid in your mouth.
  3. Brush your teeth.

Pregnancy Gingivitis

Pregnancy gingivitis is a common occurrence anytime between the third and ninth month of pregnancy.

Pregnancy gingivitis is caused by an increase in estrogen and progesterone hormones, resulting in sensitive, swollen, red, and irritated gums. If this happens, brush and floss your teeth regularly and gently clean at the gum line where gum disease starts. Also be sure to visit your dentist for checkups during your pregnancy in order to prevent it from turning into periodontitis.

Typically, pregnancy gingivitis disappears after childbirth. Talk to your dentist if gum problems persist.

Food cravings

While it’s common for women to experience unusual food cravings during pregnancy, frequently snacking on sugary foods can increase your risk of tooth decay. Try to snack on low-sugar foods instead.

If you do indulge, it’s important to rinse your mouth out with water or an alcohol-free mouth wash or brush your teeth after eating any sugary food.

Pregnancy Tumors

In some cases, overgrowths of tissue called “pregnancy tumors” can show up on the gums, usually during the second trimester. The “tumors” are not actually cancerous, but rather just swelling between the teeth that bleed easily and have a raw, red coloured appearance. They are usually related to excess plaque and disappear after giving birth.

Vitamin D Deficiency

According to researchers from the University of Manitoba, women who have low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to a baby with tooth enamel defects and early childhood caries.

Avoid this by eating lots of foods that are rich in Vitamin D. Getting outside and soaking up small amounts of sun (with sunscreen on of course) can help as well. But the best way to make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D is by taking an oral supplement.

Sensitive Teeth

For a lot of expectant mothers, teeth can become more sensitive during pregnancy. The increase in estrogen and progesterone lead to an increase in blood flow which sends more blood through to the gums. As a result, your teeth may become more prone to pain.

How Can I Keep My Teeth Strong During Pregnancy?

Besides regular brushing and flossing, there are some other important ways you can help take care of your oral health while you are pregnant.

Include Calcium in Your Diet

Your baby needs calcium for strong bones and teeth, but if your diet is low in calcium, your body will take it from your bones and blood.

Having low blood calcium also means you will have low calcium in your saliva. This affects your saliva’s ability to remineralize your tooth enamel after it’s been demineralized by acids.

Be sure to eat lots of foods that are high in calcium and take a calcium supplement if needed.

See Your Dentist

It’s critical to continue seeing your dentist during pregnancy. Besides getting routine teeth cleanings and dental work out of the way before giving birth, a visit to the dentist can help you take care of any pregnancy-related oral health problems.

Start by scheduling a checkup in your first trimester to have your teeth cleaned. Make sure that you let your dentist know that you are pregnant and tell them how far along you are. Also be sure to let your dentist know about any medications you are taking.

Is Dental Work Safe During Pregnancy?

Having certain dental work done while pregnant is crucial in order to prevent oral infections like gum disease. Preventive dental cleanings and exams are completely safe during pregnancy and are also recommended.

Other dental procedures like cavity fillings, crowns, and even tooth extractions should also be carried out during pregnancy to decrease your chances of developing an infection.

However, hold off on elective treatments like teeth whitening and cosmetic procedures until after you give birth to avoid risk to your unborn child.

In the case of high-risk pregnancy or certain medical conditions, both your dentist and your family doctor may recommend that dental work be pushed back until after your baby is born.

Is Sedation Safe While Pregnant?

While sedation and general anesthesia should be avoided while you are pregnant, local anesthesia poses no risk. In fact, it’s important to let your dentist know if you are still experiencing pain after they have administered any anesthesia. When you are comfortable and pain-free, it reduces the amount of stress put on your baby.

First, Second, And Third Trimester Pregnancy Tips When Visiting the Dentist

Since the first trimester of your pregnancy is when most of your baby’s major organs are developing, it’s best to avoid most dental work during this time, with the exception of a checkup and teeth cleaning.

If any essential dental work is needed during pregnancy, the best time to do so is during your second trimester—between the fourth and sixth month. This is the safest time in your pregnancy to have such work done and receive topical and local anesthetics.

Once you reach your third trimester, lying on your back in a dentist chair for a long duration can become difficult and uncomfortable, so it’s best to visit the dentist earlier on.

Should I Avoid Some Dental Procedures?

A common concern for many pregnant women when it comes to visiting the dentist is that being exposed to radiation from x-rays is unsafe. However, having x-rays taken at the dentist while pregnant is completely safe and will not pose any risk as your baby will be shielded from the radiation with a lead apron and thyroid guard.

Between ultrasound appointments and setting up a nursery, it’s important to prioritize your oral health throughout every stage of pregnancy to avoid any infections that could lead to pre-term labour and low birth weight. For any additional questions or concerns, speak to your oral health care provider.