Pregnancy is an important time in anyone’s life, full of hope and dreams for the future. But it can also have some challenges, too – especially physically. After all, adjusting to bringing a new life into the world is a lot of work, and it can take its toll on your body. From morning sickness to preeclampsia, there are plenty of pregnancy side effects that can throw your body out of whack, but what many don’t realize is that pregnancy can also affect your oral health!
Thankfully, the effects of pregnancy on oral health are usually temporary and resolve after the end of the pregnancy. However, they are still serious and should be treated with care during gestation. Here are a few effects of pregnancy on the oral microbiome, and what you can do to help protect yourself and your baby from them.
Are you a diligent brusher who never misses a cleaning and flosses every day? Then you may be surprised if your gums suddenly start bleeding while you’re brushing your teeth during your pregnancy. It’s called pregnancy gingivitis, and it can happen to anyone, even those with otherwise perfectly healthy mouths. That’s because pregnancy gingivitis is not caused by poor oral health and hygiene – it’s caused by hormones, which cause inflammation of the gums. In fact, pregnancy gingivitis is pretty common – an estimated 60 to 75 percent of pregnant people have gingivitis or periodontitis!
Unfortunately, while pregnancy gingivitis will most likely go away on its own once you are no longer pregnant, it should be taken seriously during pregnancy. This means more visits to Dr. Mingus and greater care paid to your gums. That’s because studies have shown that gingivitis can cause low birth weight in babies.
So, how do you treat pregnancy gingivitis? It’s honestly not much different from your regular oral health care routine: brushing at least twice per day for about two minutes at a time, flossing at least once a day, and getting regular cleanings with Dr. Mingus. As long as you stay on top of your oral health, your pregnancy gingivitis shouldn’t worsen, and it should not harm your baby. If you do have the signs of pregnancy gingivitis, however, it may be recommended that you visit Dr. Mingus every three months instead of every six.
Pregnancy can also put you at a higher risk of cavities, especially if you have pregnancy gingivitis or if you have dietary changes during your pregnancy. For example, some patients may have cravings for more sweet or sticky foods during pregnancy, which can put their teeth in danger of developing cavities.
Pregnancy-Related Tooth Damage
It doesn’t seem like being pregnant could cause damage to the teeth, but if you are stressed or in any level of discomfort, you may notice you are unconsciously grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. This is called bruxism, and it can really take a toll on your teeth. By grinding your teeth, you can cause cracks, chips and breaks in the teeth, in addition to jaw pain and stiffness.
Another unfortunate side effect of pregnancy we mentioned is morning sickness. While it doesn’t just occur in the morning, morning sickness is said to be caused by an influx of pregnancy hormones. While many patients will experience nausea, some will experience vomiting as well.
Unfortunately, vomit can be extremely acidic because it contains stomach acid, which can erode the enamel of the teeth if the vomiting occurs frequently. Of course, the first thing most of us want to do after vomiting is to brush our teeth, which is a great step. However, it can actually make enamel erosion worse, so before you reach for that brush, rinse your mouth thoroughly with water first, then wait approximately 30 minutes before actually brushing. This is to allow time for the enamel of your teeth to re-harden before coming at it with a rough-bristled toothbrush, which can permanently scratch and damage the tooth enamel.
If you do get a cavity while pregnant, be sure to tell Dr. Mingus you are expecting. Though they are not used often anymore, metal fillings have been found to cause complications in pregnancy and are not recommended for pregnant patients.
If you are expecting, congratulations! Be sure to call Dr. Mingus today and schedule a dental exam to make sure your mouth is in good health and no further intervention is needed.