There is a common misconception that pregnancy leads to bad teeth and gums. The good news is that pregnancy doesn’t automatically mean you will have oral health problems. Once your teeth have formed, calcium cannot be removed from the teeth by the body. This only happens as a result of tooth decay, which is due to the bacteria in your mouth feeding on sugary food and drinks that you consume. The bacteria then produce acids that weaken the tooth by dissolving its enamel surface over time.
However, what does happen during pregnancy is that some of the body’s normal reactions are altered or heightened. For instance, inflammation and bleeding is a typical reaction to plaque building up between the teeth and around the gums if it is not removed as part of daily oral hygiene. This is the first sign that something is not right, but this can also be easily treated by removing the plaque. The bleeding in your gums should then cease within a week or so and won’t return unless plaque is allowed to build up again.
During pregnancy, this reaction is heightened, so the gums may bleed more readily and more heavily due to the normal hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. You can effectively avoid and manage this problem through meticulous oral hygiene and regular visits to the practice to see your dental hygienist. You may need to see the dental hygienist more frequently during pregnancy if you are having problems.
In rarer cases, the gums can swell excessively – a condition that is called a pregnancy epulis. This will require expert care and management by your dentist.
The things you can do to avoid these potential problems and ensure your teeth and gums are healthy during pregnancy include:
•Brushing twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste
•Flossing or cleaning between the teeth using interdental brushes or oral irrigators
•Avoiding sugary snacks
•Stopping smoking and/or vaping (vaping is as bad as combustible tobacco for gum health)
•Rinsing your mouth out with water if you vomit due to morning sickness, as this will wash the acid away – make sure to avoid brushing your teeth straight away as this will remove softened enamel
•Seeing your dental hygienist at prescribed intervals to remove tartar and plaque that has built up in your mouth
•Using a disclosing solution or tablet if you need to see where the plaque build-up is worst – visualising the plaque enables you to focus your attention on areas where brushing is needed the most
•It is important that gum disease is not left untreated. There is evidence to show that uncontrolled gum disease can adversely affect your baby and even lead to premature birth and lower birth weight, even for pre-term babies.