Being pregnant is an exciting time for expectant mums, looking forward to a future with their little one. Whilst it is crucial to look after your overall health during pregnancy, it is important not to forget your dental health.
During pregnancy, hormonal changes in the body increase the risk of developing gum disease, which is the leading cause of tooth loss and can even affect the health of your developing baby.
Gum problems in pregnancy
The hormones associated with pregnancy can make some women particularly vulnerable to gum problems, the most common being gingivitis and gum disease.
Gingivitis is when the gums become inflamed or bleed during brushing and flossing. Most likely to occur during the second trimester, untreated gingivitis can progress to gum disease, which is more serious and can lead to tooth loss.
Gingivitis during pregnancy is the same as gingivitis outside of pregnancy, however, the cause is different. During pregnancy, the levels of progesterone in the body are up to 10 times higher than the average amount. These high levels of progesterone cause pregnant women to become more susceptible to developing certain bacteria, including the bacteria that causes gingivitis. There are also shifts in the immune system for expectant mum’s, which can impact the bodies response to fight this bacterium.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of gingivitis, it is important to visit your dentist as soon as possible and to maintain a good dental care routine.
Periodontitis while pregnant
Also known as gum disease, periodontitis is a very common condition in which the gums become swollen, sore or infected. Initially stemming from gingivitis, gum disease is more prevalent in pregnant women due to the high production of progesterone and the effect it has upon bacteria. This plaque causing bacterium is what causes gum disease; however, mild cases can be treated by maintaining good oral hygiene.
If you’re pregnant and suffering with gum disease, it is not only important to visit a dentist to keep your mouth healthy but also to ensure your baby is protected. Women who develop severe mouth infections and suffer from bleeding gums when pregnant have a greater chance of delivering their babies preterm if the infection goes untreated.
Another factor of pregnancy that can affect dental health is morning sickness. Repeated reflux and vomiting can significantly damage the enamel of the tooth, increasing the risk of decay. After vomiting, avoid brushing for at least an hour as this may harm the enamel further. Instead, rinse the mouth thoroughly with plain tap water, and follow up with a fluoride mouthwash or dab fluoride toothpaste on your finger and dab over the teeth.
Pregnancy dental care guidelines
To ensure you are looking after your dental health during pregnancy, below are some helpful tips to guide you along the way:
- Clean your teeth carefully, twice a day for two minutes at a time.
- Floss prior to brushing to reduce the build-up of plaque.
- Brush teeth using a small toothbrush with soft filaments, or an electric toothbrush.
- Avoid food and drink high in sugar and/or acidic.
- Steer away from mouthwash that contains alcohol.
- Smoking can worsen the effects of gum disease and affect your overall health as well the baby’s. For advice on quitting head to the NHS website: https://bit.ly/2NHQaCC.
- If you’re suffering with gum inflammation, rinse your mouth our daily with saltwater. Add 1 tsp of salt to a cup of warm water, swirl the wash around the mouth a few times and spit.
For more guidance on looking after your teeth, read our blog on 10 ways to keep your teeth healthy.