The Myths & Legends
For centuries it was documented that mothers would experience dental problems while pregnant. People began to assume that this was a result of the baby hijacking the mothers calcium from her teeth. However, research has shown that this is not the case.
In most pregnancies, the developing baby will receive its calcium and other minerals from the mother’s diet. A healthy intake of dairy products such as milk (or non-dairy milk with added calcium if necessary) and green leafy vegetables is typically all that is required. In some cases, your Obstetrician may prescribe certain supplements if your diet fails to suffice.
So what effects does pregnancy actually have on my oral health?
With that said, pregnancy does affect your oral health, but these effects come as a result of the hormonal changes that occur. As your estrogen and progesterone levels rise, your gum tissues may begin over-reacting to the plaque around your gumline.
You can learn more about Plaque here.
As the plaque builds up, it can harden into tartar, which can result in gingivitis. In this case, we call the condition pregnancy gingivitis, which affects most women at some point during pregnancy. The degree to which you are affected depends on your oral routine, dental history, diet, and family history. For most women, the condition will arise sometime after the second month of pregnancy. It is easily treated and managed with the aid of a trained dentist. However, if left untreated, it can progress into periodontal disease (gum disease) which is much more serious.
Additionally, a dentist can identify and treat (or manage) pregnancy tumors. These non-cancerous tumors can develop around the gum tissue, if the tissue is inflammed and/or swollen. Most of these tumors will eventually disappear on their own, once the baby has been born. However, in rare cases these tumors may need to be removed. Your dentist will discuss your options so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there any way for me to prevent these issues or mitigate them?
You can avoid gingivitis simply by taking care of your teeth and gums. Brushing twice a day and flossing before bed each night is the most effective means of preventing gingivitis and gum disease.
For some women, brushing can worsen their morning sickness. If this is the case, try rinsing your mouth with water or warm black tea in the morning. Attempt to brush your teeth at a later point in the day and before bed. You may also wish to experiment with different toothpastes. Certain flavors or brands may affect you differently. And if you’re in a pinch, baking soda and water can serve as a temporary toothpaste for the mornings, but be sure to follow up with a fluoride toothpaste later in the day or before bed.
You will also want to keep up with your regular dental check ups and cleanings. Some insurance providers will cover extra cleanings during pregnancy as well, so be sure to ask your doctor to check your benefits. Dental cleanings are a effective measure for preventing or reducing gum irritation, eliminating stubborn plaque, preventing gingivitis, and reducing the chances of developing pregnancy tumors.
Does my oral health and dental routine affect my baby’s health and development?
Research is still be conducted in regards to this question. There does seem to be a possible link between gum disease and low-birthweight, but these results are still being evaluated. Some have also suggested that excess oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream through infected or inflammed gum tissue. These bacteria may travel through the bloodstream and interact with your uterus. This can result in the production of prostaglandins, which may induce premature labor.
So when should I schedule my appointment?
If you are planning on becoming pregnant in the near future, you should schedule your appointment in advance. Your dentist will evaluate your oral health, provide advice for the next few months, and determine how often you should come in for a check-up and cleaning.
If you are already pregnant, then you should schedule your appointment soon. At the very least, you should schedule an appointment around the first trimester. Your dentist will be able to determine how often you should come in for a cleaning during this appointment and provide you with advice for managing your oral health over the next nine (9) months.
A second cleaning is usually schedule sometime during the second trimester. For most women, this will be their final cleaning prior to pregnancy. If your dentists believes that you should have a third cleaning during the third trimester, the appointment should be scheduled early in the third trimester and the appointment should be for minimal work, as excess stress can result in premature labor toward the end of the third trimester.
If you’d like to schedule an appointment, give us a call at 816–452–1888 or use our online appointment form.