Oral Health and Pregnancy

Good oral care is an important part of your overall health. It also plays a vital role in staying healthy while you are pregnant. Your body undergoes a lot of changes during pregnancy. This includes increased blood flow, changes in hormones, and a variety of pregnancy symptoms. These can lead to dental problems that can affect your baby’s health. For instance, studies show that gum disease may be linked to premature birth and low birth weight.

Oral health helps take care of you and your baby. It can prevent possible health problems, including the following.

  • Pregnancy gingivitis. This is the most common form of gum disease. In pregnancy, it may be caused by increased levels of progesterone. Symptoms include swollen, red gums that may be sore and/or bleed. Though mild, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis.
  • Periodontitis. This is the most severe form of gum disease. It is caused by an infection in your gums. The infection can spread to your teeth and bones, which can lead to tooth loss.
  • Tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria (plaque) eat away at the enamel on your teeth. In pregnancy, it may be caused by increased acid in your mouth or increased sugar in your diet.
  • Cavities. Cavities are a result of tooth decay. They are small holes in your teeth where acid or sugar ate away the enamel.
  • Loose teeth. The bones and tendons in your mouth (and other parts of your body) can move and loosen when you are pregnant. This shouldn’t cause harm unless you have other symptoms.
  • Pregnancy tumors. Lumps of plaque can form on your gums or between your teeth. They are not cancerous, but they can be red, swollen, bloody, and painful.

Path to improved health

Below are ways that you can maintain oral health during pregnancy to prevent dental problems.

  • Visit your dentist for a checkup and cleaning. Good practice of oral health is to visit the dentist twice a year. This should continue before, during, and after pregnancy. When you are pregnant, the second trimester is ideal for a checkup. Tell your dentist you are pregnant in advance. They may alter the services and/or medicines they provide.
  • Brush and floss your teeth regularly. You should brush at least 2 times a day and floss at least 1 time a day. This may be hard if you have nausea, but that makes it even more important. Try to brush at a time of day you feel better. Or you can use mouthwash. Choose toothpaste that helps fight plaque and gingivitis.
  • Rinse your mouth with mouthwash. You can do this 1 to 2 times a day. Choose a mouthwash that contains fluoride but not alcohol.
  • Limit the amount of sweets you eat. This may be hard with pregnancy cravings, but sugar can cause tooth decay. Eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy. Brush more often if you eat frequent snacks throughout the day.
  • Limit the amount of sugary drinks you consume. Try to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.

You may be at an increased risk of dental problems if you:

  • Have nausea and vomiting (morning sickness).
  • Have extra saliva.
  • Have dry mouth.
  • Are a smoker.

When to see your doctor

Outside of routine appointments, contact your dentist if you have the following symptoms.

  • Sensitive or painful gums.
  • A toothache.
  • Abnormal bleeding.
  • Swollen gums.
  • Lumps or sores in your mouth.
  • Pain when you brush your teeth or floss.
  • Bad breath.

The dentist will do an oral exam to diagnose any problems. Treatment for dental conditions depends on the problem and the trimester you are in. Tell your dentist about all health problems to help determine treatment. This should be coordinated with your OBGYN.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • How do I know if I have a dental problem that I should be concerned about?
  • Do I need to change my daily oral habits?
  • How can I prevent dental problems if I have bad morning sickness?
  • What can I do to relieve swollen, bleeding gums?
  • Is it okay to have dental X-rays while I am pregnant?