If you brush, floss, and rinse daily and visit your dentist regularly for cleaning and examination, chances are good that you’ll enjoy optimal oral health heading into a pregnancy. However, you might not be aware of the fact that many women experience oral health concerns related to fluctuating hormone levels when they become pregnant.
Believe it or not, it is extremely common for pregnant women to suffer from oral health problems like gum disease, even if they have never had such issues before. It’s important for your overall health and the health of your baby that you maintain good oral condition during pregnancy. Here are just a few issues you could experience when you become pregnant and why it is so important to maintain healthy gums.
Increased Risk of Gum Disease
When you’re pregnant, you’re going to experience increases in both estrogen and progesterone. These changes are necessary for your body to support a healthy baby and prepare for the rigors of pregnancy, labor, and childbirth, as well as breastfeeding following pregnancy.
However, you can experience some side effects associated with increased hormone levels, as you know if you’ve had morning sickness. One of the symptoms of increased progesterone is that your body can become a breeding ground for certain bacteria, including those that cause gum disease. Your gums can also become more sensitive to irritants like plaque, tartar, and the bacteria responsible for gum disease, leading to more extreme reactions.
The result is a common condition known as pregnancy gingivitis, which is characterized by mild to severe symptoms including red, swollen, tender gums, as well as bleeding when you brush or floss. If you already suffer from gum disease or other oral health issues when you become pregnant, your condition could be exacerbated by pregnancy hormones.
Even if you’re in perfect health at the time of conception, you could be among the estimated 40% of pregnant women that suffer the onset of pregnancy gingivitis, generally between months 2-8 of pregnancy. In truth, it is very likely that even more women develop gum disease during pregnancy, but exact numbers aren’t known due to underreporting.
Oral health has been linked to overall health in a number of studies, and if gum disease goes untreated, it could not only lead to serious concerns like tooth loss and infection, but it could also pose greater health risks and even prove potentially harmful to your baby.
Risks to Your Baby
Some studies have shown a correlation between poor oral health, especially periodontal disease, and instances of premature birth and low birth weight. It’s important to understand that there are many potential contributors to these pregnancy concerns, including heredity, ethnicity, the mother’s age and overall health, habits like tobacco use, and more.
However, you only have control over certain factors, and oral health is among them. If you want to enjoy a healthy pregnancy, you’ll not only need to quit bad habits like smoking and adjust your diet and nutrition accordingly, but you’ll also have to stick with a solid oral health regimen and visit your dentist regularly for cleaning and examination, especially if you notice any signs of gum disease.
Difficulties with Morning Sickness
Morning sickness can make all kinds of daily activities difficult, from eating to brushing and flossing. It may also prevent you from attending regularly scheduled dental visits. What can you do when everything makes you gag?
There are a couple of ways to preserve your oral health and prevent gum disease. If you’re planning to get pregnant, start by visiting your dentist for a thorough cleaning and examination beforehand to identify and treat any potential oral health issues ahead of time.
If you experience morning sickness during pregnancy and brushing becomes an issue, try switching to a mild toothpaste and a softer toothbrush and rinse with water after vomiting to reduce acid and particulates in the mouth. As soon as you’re able, visit your dentist for examination, and keep a close eye for signs and symptoms of gum disease.
Cravings for Sweets
Many pregnant women experience food cravings during pregnancy, especially for sweets and other snacks that can be harmful to oral health and contribute to the onset of gum disease. It’s important to eat a healthy and balanced diet and temper such cravings, not only for your own oral and overall health, but for the healthy development of your baby.