Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13, 2018.
In honor of Mother’s Day, we’ve put together this guide to pregnancy and teeth.
If you’re a mom or mom-to-be, here’s how pregnancy really affects your teeth, plus three strategies for taking care of your dental health during pregnancy.
Two Truths and a Lie: How Does Pregnancy Really Affect Your Teeth?
The Lie: “My baby sucked all of the calcium out of my teeth, and that’s why I have so many cavities!”
It’s true that women often develop more cavities after a pregnancy. However, it’s not because your baby is sucking the calcium out of your teeth. Here’s what’s really going on.
Truth #1: Your Chance of Developing Cavities Increases During Pregnancy
There are two reasons that your risk for developing cavities increases during pregnancy.
The first? Morning sickness, which can affect up to 90% of pregnant women, can be hard on your teeth and lead to more cavities. Looking for ways to tame morning sickness? An empty stomach can increase nausea, so try to eat small snacks throughout the day. Good foods to try include dry carbs like crackers, dry toast, and popcorn - especially first thing in the morning, when nausea often reaches its peak. Drinking peppermint tea can also reduce nausea. If you do experience nausea, we recommend rinsing with water and baking soda to decrease your mouth’s acidity. Or, try a buffered rinse (your dentist may also recommend this if you suffer from acid reflux).
The biggest culprit of cavities during pregnancy? Snacking. While it’s a normal part of pregnancy, it can also disrupt the pH of your mouth and make it more acidic. To keep your mouth healthy, remember to snack in moderation, especially when it comes to foods with a high sugar content. We also recommend eating 100% xylitol mints or chewing xylitol gum after snacks, if your stomach can tolerate it. If xylitol irritates you stomach, try a mouthwash with xylitol. And as always, remember to keep up with brushing and flossing.
Truth #2: Tenderness of Your Gums Increases
During pregnancy, your blood volume may increase by 50-80%. This can make your gums extra sensitive and vulnerable to infection. About half of pregnant women will develop pregnancy gingivitis, or swollen, bleeding gums.
If you develop pregnancy gingivitis, talk to your doctor. The condition is easily treatable, but it’s important to catch it before it gets more serious. (If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontis, a more serious type of gum disease that can increase your baby’s risk for premature birth.)
Three Ways You Can Take Care of Your Dental Health
1. Brush and Floss Regularly
The most important thing you can do for your oral health during pregnancy?
You guessed it - keep brushing and flossing!
But what else can you do to care for your dental health?
2. Keep Track of Your Diet
Keeping track of your diet is important for making sure your baby is getting all the right nutrients. It’s important for your health, too.
In addition to making sure you’re getting the balanced diet you and your baby need, keeping track of your diet is also important for your oral health.
3. Schedule a Dental Check-Up
We get it. You’re probably spending more time at the doctor than usual, so the last thing you want to do is schedule another medical appointment.
But routine dental care and treatment of dental conditions shouldn’t be delayed or avoided because of pregnancy.
It’s true that you’ll probably need to wait until after your pregnancy for more complicated procedures or oral surgery.
However, regular check-ups are usually just fine. And they can help catch issues early, before they become more serious.
Wondering about safety? Dental x-rays (with proper shielding) and procedures such as tooth extraction, cavity filling, etc. are not harmful to your pregnancy.
If you have questions or concerns about a specific dental procedure, just ask!
And remember, if you are pregnant or suspect you may be, let your dentist know. Schedule an appointment today, and get the care you and your baby need.