While we know that there are links between dental health and overall health and longevity, it’s also true that there are links between overall health, including biological and maturational changes in the body, and dental health. One of the most common shifts in dental health occurs during pregnancy.
People often underestimate the enormity of the changes that occur in a woman’s body during pregnancy, but in many ways it’s a sea change. All of her major systems – respiratory, digestive, urinary, musculoskeletal, endocrine, cardiovascular – are affected, and the skin, muscles and ligaments stretch and pull to accommodate the baby’s growth. How does pregnancy affect her oral health?
Morning sickness – The acid from vomit is not good for her tooth enamel.
Cravings – If a pregnant woman begins craving (and indulging in) more sweet and starchy foods, this will have a negative effect on her dental health.
Avoidance of the dentist – Only a third of American women visit the dentist during their pregnancy.
Plaque-friendly oral environment – A woman’s changing hormones affect the plaque in her mouth. Specifically, they affect the ability of her mouth to fight plaque, which can be bad for her teeth and gums. Gum disease is linked to premature birth, so increased plaque is not just bad for the mother, it’s bad for the baby too. Pregnancy and dental issues are so linked that there’s even a saying: “Gain a child, lose a tooth,” meaning that every pregnancy will result in tooth loss.
So what can a pregnant woman do to mitigate her risk of cavities and tooth loss? The first thing she can do is floss. If the plaque in a woman’s mouth is more rapidly multiplying, flossing daily and flossing well will help to keep it at bay. Women shouldn’t be too alarmed if their gums bleed, though. With repeated flossing, this will stop.
Secondly, she can go to the dentist during her pregnancy to have her teeth cleaned and make sure everything is fine. Gum disease is treatable, especially in its initial stages. A good dentist will let her know how to improve her overall oral health and be able to answer questions about when her baby will need to see the dentist first.
Thirdly, she should increase her dietary calcium. Pregnant women over the age of 18 should consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, whether that’s found in foods like almonds, spinach, milk, or cheese, or in a calcium supplement.
Finally, she should not brush her teeth immediately after vomiting. This is because brushing will only increase the access her stomach acid has to her tooth enamel. She should either rinse her mouth out with water or an alcohol-free non-acidic mouthwash instead.
Following these tips will help pregnant women maintain their own oral health while continuing to promote her baby’s as well. Pregnant women concerned about gingivitis, cavities, or tooth loss should contact their dentist today because early treatment is the simplest and least costly.