by Laurena Marques, BSDH, RDH
Oral health is a very important part of prenatal care. Pregnancy can cause an increased risk for dental problems so taking care of your teeth and gums can help you have a healthy pregnancy and baby! Here are some of the most common questions we get from our pregnant patients:
“Does the baby take all the nutrients from my teeth?”
This is a common question but fortunately a misconception! However, the body’s hormonal changes can cause an exaggerated response to bacteria in the mouth, as well as tooth decay from an increase in acids from vomiting (especially in the first trimester). A change in dietary habits can also lead to an increase in acids that cause tooth decay.
“Why are my gums sore and bleeding during pregnancy?”
Increased hormone levels allow an increased response to the bacteria in the mouth that causes gums to bleed easily and can lead to pregnancy gingivitis. There is also an increase of specific bacteria that use these hormones as a source of nutrition. Gums can bleed easily when brushing and flossing and new lesions can appear on the gums between the teeth. When chronic inflammation is untreated, it can lead to periodontal disease, which is common during pregnancy. When gums are unhealthy or an untreated tooth infection is present, this can lead to a slightly higher chance of premature birth and low birth weight babies.
“Are dental x-rays safe during pregnancy?”
Yes! It’s important to diagnose decay and gum issues during pregnancy, so we recommend routine x-rays at your dental visit. Digital dental x-rays pose minimal radiation exposure to the uterus, and we provide a lead apron for additional protection.
“Can I have a dental work aside from cleanings during pregnancy?”
Dental care should be prioritized during pregnancy due to the higher likelihood of tooth decay and gum issues. We recommend delaying restorative work (fillings, crowns, etc.) until after the first trimester. The best time to have dental work completed is during the second trimester, while you are more comfortable in positions for long periods of time. Dental cleanings can be performed throughout the entire pregnancy if you are comfortable in the chair.
“What are some things I can do to help my teeth and gums during pregnancy?”
- If you notice an increase in bleeding when brushing, it’s important to have early intervention – come in to get a checkup and dental cleaning. Many of our patients like to have additional cleanings during their pregnancies to ensure good oral health. Some insurances will even cover an “extra” cleaning during pregnancy! Dental visits are also important if you have a chronic health condition or have a high-risk pregnancy.
- If vomiting, wait at least one hour before brushing your teeth to avoid enamel erosion. Use a pH balancing mouth rinse or swish with water to reduce the amount of acids in your mouth.
- Use toothpaste with fluoride to strengthen your enamel.
- Choose low sugar foods that are less damaging to your teeth such as raw fruit and vegetables. Avoid soda and juice.
If you have additional questions about pregnancy and your oral health, please reach out to us. And if you are reading this and currently expecting – congratulations!
American Dental Association (2021) Oral Health Topics – Pregnancy. https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/pregnancy
B Rai, J Kaur, S Kharb. (2008) Pregnancy gingivitis and periodontitis and its systemic effect. The Internet Journal of Dental Science. 2008 Volume 6 Number 2.