Women expect to experience a wealth of changes to their body during their pregnancy. From first-trimester nausea to third-trimester back pain, women face a number of side effects and symptoms throughout these nine months as their baby develops. Dental problems, which range from minor to significant, are a less discussed but equally common side effect of pregnancy. Understanding these dental problems can help you identify and even prevent them during your pregnancy.
Common Dental Problems During Pregnancy
You might not expect pregnancy to affect your gums and teeth, but often, it does. One of the first dental issues you might notice is tender, swollen, and even bleeding gums. This pregnancy-caused dental issue occurs for a number of reasons.
First, hormones are surging during your pregnancy, which can cause gum inflammation and sensitivity. Blood flow increases in your body during pregnancy, and your mouth is not immune to this increased amount of blood. At the same time, your gums are more sensitive to bacteria and plaque, which can cause them to bleed. Known as pregnancy gingivitis, this dental problem can develop early in your pregnancy but usually peaks in the second trimester.
Undetected and untreated pregnancy gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease. Some research indicates that periodontitis that develops during pregnancy can lead to preterm labor, defined as any birth that occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy. Other studies indicate that periodontitis is associated with preeclampsia, a very serious condition marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. While research does not unanimously confirm the link between periodontitis and these conditions, some studies do fine a connection.
Preventing pregnancy gingivitis starts at home. Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride-based toothpaste. Don’t forget to floss daily. If you have swollen gums can use a warm saltwater rinse to ease inflammation. If morning sickness causes vomiting, be sure to rinse your mouth or brush your teeth after you vomit. A healthy diet can also prevent dental problems during pregnancy. Choosing a balanced diet and avoiding sugary snacks can maintain good dental health throughout the pregnancy.
Dental Treatments During Pregnancy
Routine dental examinations are important during pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association recommends having at least one oral checkup with your dentist during your pregnancy. Other dental treatments, such as cavity fillings are crowns, are generally recognized as safe for pregnant women, as these treatments reduce the chance of further problems or infection.
Elective treatments, such as teeth whitening, should be postponed until after you have your baby. Likewise, routine X-rays should be postponed as well, even though evidence indicates that X-rays do not impact your baby. When you schedule a dental appointment, notify your dentist that you are pregnant. Routine treatments are best reserved for the second trimester, when you are past the morning sickness phase but before you become physically uncomfortable.
Dental problems can appear during pregnancy, but they are often preventable. Adhere to a healthy diet and good oral hygiene routine, and you can avoid any dental complications during your pregnancy. Take time to schedule a visit to your dentist during your pregnancy as well, helping you to identify any minor issues before they become serious ones.
Guest post contributed by Robert Anders for RockCenter Orthodontics. Robert is a freelance writer and an experienced dental technician. In his spare time he enjoys passing on helpful dental tips.