Pregnancy is like the ultimate detective. It leaves no stone (or body part) unturned. It will make your hair fall out, your skin stretch, and your feet grow (say goodbye to many of your pre-pregnancy shoes!). And the fun doesn’t end there. Pregnancy also takes a hit on dental health; cavities, gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth erosion are on the list of pregnancy pleasures.
Here’s what can be on the to-do list of your teeth…
- Gingivitis (Gum Disease): Just like your hands and feet, your gums can swell during pregnancy. An increased inflammatory response to plaque can cause your gums to swell and bleed. Those who enter pregnancy with their dentist already on speed dial (a.k.a. you had gum disease before pregnancy) are more likely to experience a worsening during pregnancy. If this is you, make sure to pay particular attention to what your teeth and gums are doing!
- Loose Teeth: Due to an increase in hormones, flexibility in your joints and ligaments increases during pregnancy. And while this may make you excel in yoga, it makes your teeth super loose. Beware of sticky foods!
- Tooth Erosion: Your teeth like food. Your teeth like water. Your teeth don’t like vomit. Vomit contains gastric acid, and gastric acid can eat away at the enamel of the tooth, causing tooth erosion. Therefore, women with serious morning sickness are at risk for serious tooth erosion. Rinsing your mouth with a basic solution (baking soda + 1 cup of water) can help neutralize the acid.
- Cavities: What you take in and what your mouth puts out change during pregnancy. The pH of the mouth shifts to a slightly more acidic level. This acidity, combined with pregnancy cravings (a.k.a. more sweets and sugary foods), increases the risk of cavities. Don’t go to bed without brushing and flossing!
- Periodontitis: When gingivitis is ignored, it can become periodontitis. Simply stated, when bacteria make the gums their permanent home destroying the gum and the teeth, you have yourself a case of periodontitis. You can look forward to loose teeth, lost bone, and sometimes, even bacteria in the bloodstream. The latter, in the worst-case scenario, can lead to preterm labor. Don’t let it get to this point. If your gums don’t feel right, go right to someone to check them.
There is a lot about pregnancy that makes you smile and a lot that makes you frown. Whichever way your mouth is going, don’t forget about the 30-plus structures that stand behind them. Your teeth need to last you through pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond. Make sure to take care of them. After age 12, the tooth fairy brings nothing but a bill and a big-time headache!