Of all the strange and unique health situations that pregnancy can bring about, from gestational diabetes to suddenly curly hair, dental health in pregnant women is often overlooked. After all, how can something like pregnancy affect the teeth you already have in your mouth?
But in actuality, pregnancy does provide some challenges for women who want to keep their pearly whites in perfect condition. Here are a few oral health-related issues to watch out for during pregnancy.
Otherwise known as gum disease, gingivitis is often characterized by swelling and reddening of the gums. In most people, it is usually caused by a lack of good oral hygiene. The presence of plaque and bacteria that comes from not brushing or flossing regularly can build up on the teeth, causing the gums to become inflamed. At the worst, they can be painful and even start bleeding.
Unfortunately, the presence of pregnancy hormones can cause gums to experience the pain and swelling of gingivitis, regardless of how well you take care of your teeth. With nearly 40% of pregnant women experiencing hormonal gingivitis, it can become a big problem and has even been connected to low birth weights and premature delivery. While you can’t change the hormones, make sure you limit the extent of the damage by keeping up with your regular brushing and flossing. Choosing a soft-bristled brush will help limit any tenderness or pain in the gums.
Morning sickness is probably one of the most well-known side effects of pregnancy, but it can lead to a whole host of health issues for pregnant women. The acid from the stomach can burn the lining of the esophagus, but it can also affect the strength of the women’s teeth. The stomach acid is incredibly strong and constant vomiting in the first trimester or two can result in an erosion of the tooth enamel. As the enamel disappears, the tooth is left exposed and is more likely to decay.
It may be tempting to brush right after morning sickness, but this will further damage the enamel. Instead, neutralize the lingering acid with a baking soda and warm water solution. Rinse out your mouth again with water, and you’re good to brush.
This may sound scary, but these types of “pregnancy tumors” that can occur in the mouth are at the very worst a bit unpleasant. Technically called pyogenic granuloma, these small growths often show up as dark red masses between the teeth. They’re not pretty, but they’re also not very dangerous. They also usually disappear on their own after the birth of the baby. However, if they become too much of an irritation, they can be removed without too much trouble by your dentist.
While diet should always be considered when thinking about oral health, it is especially important for mothers-to-be who may already be experiencing pregnancy-related oral discomfort. Reducing the amount of added sugar in the diet is a very good and quite simple first step. Making sure your diet is rich in vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients is another step to take. And since you’re also growing another person, ensuring that your diet is rich in nutrition, especially vitamins A, C, and D, will help both you and baby. Focus on protein, calcium, and phosphorous as well, since growing babies need these to develop successfully.
Dr. Emma Wu & Associates: Improving Oral Health for Those expecting
Oral health probably feels like just one more thing you need to worry about during your pregnancy. If you’re struggling to know what to do or if you’re experiencing oral discomfort, contact Dr. Emma Wu today to discuss steps you can take to stay healthy.