As we move toward Spring, it’s natural for our thoughts to turn to “new life”. Pregnancy is one of the times in our lives when we need to take special care of ourselves. It affects not only our bodies but our mouths as well.
Because any infection while you’re pregnant is a cause for concern, in the best case scenario, you would have a pre-pregnancy dental check-up and have all necessary treatment done before becoming pregnant. However, if you are pregnant and have not had a recent dental check up, call your dentist’s office to schedule one. If you need further dental treatment, you and your dentist should discuss the best time to have the treatment as well as what treatment options you have. Often the second trimester is the best time to have non-emergency dental care, but some situations can’t wait that long.
You should also see your dentist if you are undergoing fertility treatments. Many procedures that increase your chances of getting pregnant also increase the chances of having bleeding or swollen gums, even when you’re cleaning your teeth very well. Several studies have linked gum problems and infections to unsuccessful in-vitro fertilization attempts. If you’re having difficulty getting pregnant, seeing your dentist and having any potential sources of infection--including gum disease--treated may potentially increase your chances of success.
Gingivitis is so common that most of us don’t think of it as an infection, but that’s exactly what it is! Gingivitis is not exclusive to pregnancy, but the hormonal changes of pregnancy cause your gums to more easily react to plaque and bacterial toxins on your teeth and under your gums. The earliest sign is bleeding. Other symptoms include redness, tenderness, and swelling. If you have pregnancy gingivitis or pregnancy “tumors”, as they used to be called, more frequent dental visits during your pregnancy might be needed as well as careful attention to your brushing and flossing.
Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease (gum disease). This is an infection that destroys the bone and other support tissues for your teeth. It can cause tooth abscesses and tooth loss. If that isn’t enough, women with periodontal disease are seven (7) times more likely to have a baby born too early and too small!
You may hold to the popular belief that women will lose at least one tooth for each child she carries due to the baby taking calcium from the mother. In today’s world, tooth loss due to pregnancy is not necessary. The calcium your baby needs is absorbed from your bones and your diet. This is why it’s important for you to consume a healthy diet that’s high in nutrients and vitamins.
In addition, frequent snacking and craving sweet, chewy or acidic foods during pregnancy can increase your chance for tooth decay and tooth sensitivity. When sugar meets bacteria in your mouth, an “acid attack” occurs for about 20 minutes afterward--sometimes longer. Limiting eating frequency will help protect your teeth from decay and infections. Brushing your teeth after eating helps reduce the effects of the acid attack.
Another consideration during pregnancy is morning sickness, nausea, vomiting, and GERD. Acidity from the contents of your stomach weakens the protective enamel covering of your teeth and makes them more likely to decay or be sensitive. It’s very important to rinse your mouth with water as soon after vomiting as possible to decrease the acidity. It’s best to not brush your teeth immediately as the weakened enamel might be removed by the abrasive action. If you have frequent vomiting or severe GERD your dentist might prescribe fluoride or another at home treatment to help protect your teeth from the effects of the acid.
The important thing to remember is that maintaining good oral health will minimize any complications that might occur from hormones or other sources. Keep lines of communication open between you and your dentist.
If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant and do not have a dentist, I invite you to join my practice. Please call 440-960-1940 or use the contact form on my website at www.drjrobb.com You can also ask questions or find out more by joining my facebook page at www.facebook.com/drjenniferrobb
*Note: Information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare providers.
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist who sees adults and children at her office located at 1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd. W, Lorain, OH 44053.