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Pregnant? Don’t Forget Your Teeth!

Pregnancy is an exciting and busy time in your life. You’re probably feeling a variety of emotions and working hard to keep you and your baby healthy. Despite this busy time, it is important for you to keep up with your oral hygiene practices for the health of you and your baby. Studies suggest that there may be a link between preterm, low-birth weight babies and gum disease.

An increase in hormones during pregnancy causes a build-up in plaque, a sticky film containing millions of bacteria, which can lead to gum disease or other oral health complications. Treating these complications can require anesthesia, medications, x-rays, extensive medical procedures or making eating difficult – all of which could complicate or cause discomfort during your pregnancy.

There are two major concerns for pregnant women and oral health:

–          To avoid dental health emergencies and/or treatment in the last trimester

–          To prevent periodontal (gum) disease

If you are pregnant, or plan on becoming pregnant soon, it is important to schedule an appointment with your dentist. It is recommended by health professionals that you receive any dental work, including a cleaning, during the first or second trimester of your pregnancy.


Pregnancy Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissues. Symptoms of gingivitis include redness, swelling, tenderness, and bleeding of the gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can be extremely uncomfortable for the individual, and ultimately lead to bone loss around the teeth.

Pregnancy Gingivitis is a type of gum disease that appears in pregnant women, usually becoming evident in the second trimester. An increased level of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone correlate with an increase in dental plaque. This build-up of plaque is what causes pregnancy gingivitis.

To help combat and prevent pregnancy gingivitis, follow the guidelines listed in the How to Maintain Good Oral Health section below.


“Pregnancy Tumors”

“Pregnancy Tumors” are benign growths that arise out of swollen gums of pregnant women. These red lumps usually form on inflamed gum tissues near the upper gum line, can bleed or crust over, and make eating and speaking difficult and painful. Although these pregnancy tumors can occur at any time during pregnancy, like pregnancy gingivitis, they most often develop during the second trimester.

Most dentists leave pregnancy tumors alone until they break on their own. However, if they interfere with oral hygiene and proper eating, they may have to be surgically removed. This would require taking additional medications and possibly receiving low levels of anesthesia, both of which are not recommended during pregnancy.


Frequent Vomiting and Nausea

Morning sickness is a condition that affects many pregnant women. Women experiencing morning sickness feel nauseous and often vomit, which can be detrimental to your oral health. When you vomit, gastric acid from your stomach enters your mouth and can erode your tooth enamel. Worn tooth enamel can cause tooth decay and brittleness, and increased sensitivity to hot and cold food and liquids.

If you are experiencing frequent nausea and vomiting follow these steps to prevent enamel erosion. Thoroughly rinse your mouth with water after vomiting. If you can, rinse your mouth with a mixture of water and baking soda; baking soda will help to neutralize the stomach acid. Try to wait an hour before brushing your teeth after vomiting to minimalize the erosion caused by the stomach acid exposure. Eat small portions throughout the day, and make sure you are using fluoride toothpaste to further protect your teeth.


How to Maintain Good Oral Health

Maintaining good oral health is beneficial to you and your baby and is not difficult to do. To maintain good oral health and reduce the build-up of plaque, make sure you:

–          Brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, paying close attention to the gum line

–          Floss your teeth once a day and use a antimicrobial mouth rinse

–          Get a professional cleaning in the first or second trimester of your pregnancy

–          Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of C and B12 vitamins

–          Refrain from smoking


Oral health is important for you and your baby. The consequences and risks of not treating an oral health condition during pregnancy far exceed the risks of receiving dental care to treat the conditions. Everyone’s body reacts differently to pregnancy, so if you feel that you are experiencing any of these conditions make sure you contact your oral healthcare provider for the health of you and your baby. For more information on oral health during pregnancy, see Pregnancy & oral health.

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