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Tooth Decay and Pregnancy: What to Know About Pregnancy Dental Health

Pregnancy can cause tooth decay and other dental health issue. Get tips from a dentist on proper dental care during pregnancy.
Dental Health During Pregnancy
Updated: September 8, 2023
Fact checked by  Dr. Taoheed Jimoh
Table of contents

Maintaining excellent oral health is important in all phases of life, including pregnancy period. Pregnancy can actually impact your dental health and teeth strength as your body works to grow a new human being.

Pregnancy is an important period for moms, which shows various changes in various systems from which the teeth, gums and other oral structures are not exempted. Expectant moms' dental health is essential for their health and the health of their growing offspring.

Our dental experts explain the relationship between oral health and pregnancy, particularly on caries (tooth decay) and its implications for pregnancy. Learn why fighting tooth decay during pregnancy and paying attention to dental care before and during pregnancy is essential for the mother and child's overall health.

Related: 6 Symptoms of Pregnancy No One Tells You About

Oral Health Changes to Teeth During Pregnancy

According to the Association of American Family Physicians, the knowledge of oral health-related changes in women is very low, with only 22-34% of pregnant women having regular dental visits during gestation.

Therefore, it is understandable that most pregnant women do not know what changes to look out for and how to maintain optimal oral health for their benefit and the benefit of their child.

Pregnancy brings about hormonal changes that can have an impact on oral health. Increased progesterone and estrogen levels can lead to swollen and bleeding gums – a condition known as pregnancy gingivitis.

Additionally, the changes in the oral microbiome can increase the risk of dental issues. Pregnant women must be aware of these changes and take proactive measures to maintain oral hygiene.

In addition, these hormones may lead to behavioral changes and changes in dietary patterns, making pregnant women consume more sweet and sugary foods that predispose them to tooth decay.

Dental Problems and Tooth Decay in Pregnancy

There is a two-way relationship between oral health conditions and pregnancy. Reports by the CDC show that oral health changes and diseases can lead to poor health outcomes in pregnancy and suboptimal maternal and child health.

Various oral health diseases seen during gestation include periodontal diseases, gum diseases, tooth decay or caries and other non-carious tooth surface loss.

Caries and Tooth Decay

Caries, often known as tooth decay, are characterized by the destruction of tooth structure.

Poor dental hygiene habits, germs, and a sugary diet aid caries growth. Hormonal changes and nutritional preferences might enhance vulnerability to caries during pregnancy. Pregnant women must be aware of the risk factors for caries and adopt preventive measures.

According to the WHO, more than two billion people worldwide suffer from caries, and a CDC report showed that 1 out of every 4 women of reproductive age has dental caries. Pregnancy does not cause tooth decay.

However, the susceptibility to caries is more pronounced during gestation due to cravings for sugary snacks, increased oral cavity acidity, reduced saliva production, delay in seeking dental consultation, and anxiety.

This tends to have far-reaching consequences even on the child after delivery; A study showed that children of mothers with a high level of untreated caries are 3 times more susceptible to caries in their early years.

This is major because of the vertical transmission of oral flora from the mother to the child.

Pregnancy and Periodontitis

Periodontitis is the destructive inflammation of tooth-supporting structures. This process leads to a series of events that results in tooth loss and has also been linked to adverse outcomes in pregnant women. Emerging evidence shows that periodontal problems can lead to an increased risk of preterm birth, preeclampsia, and low birth weight. Proper management of periodontal problems has shown positive results and improved pregnancy outcomes for women.

Another symptom you may notice is the mobility of teeth during pregnancy due to higher levels of progesterone and estrogen influencing the periodontium (the ligaments and bone supporting the teeth).

Most of the time, these are uncomplicated and transitory and will not result in tooth loss. Ensure to visit your dentist if you notice that any of your teeth are shaking, as they can better help you to understand the best course of action.

Pregnancy and Gingivitis

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gum. A study by the American Dental Association (ADA) showed that gingivitis is the most common oral symptom related to pregnancy, with up to 75 percent of all pregnant women experiencing it.

Gum diseases are commonly associated with poor dental hygiene and local irritants, particularly plaque and debris. Pregnancy hormones frequently increase the inflammatory response to these local irritants, putting pregnant women at higher risk of gingival swelling.

Acidic Erosion of Teeth and Bruxism

Acidic Erosion

Many women experience morning sickness and frequent vomiting when pregnant. This has specific implications for the teeth; when you vomit, stomach acids are deposited on the teeth, which could cause the tooth's hard structure to break down.

Thoroughly rinsing your mouth with clean water until the vomit taste is completely washed off will suffice. Brushing after vomiting is generally discouraged because the movement of the toothbrush against the teeth while the acid is coating it can faster erode your teeth.

Stress-induced bruxism is also common as pregnancy progresses. Ensure that you communicate with your obstetrician and dentist if you have anything troubling your mind.

How Do I Care For My Teeth When Pregnant?

Maintaining good oral hygiene practices is crucial during pregnancy. Many of the Oral diseases that are seen in pregnancy can be prevented with simple practices.

  • Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Flossing regularly.
  • Mouthwash can help control plaque build-up.
  • A nutritious diet that is rich in essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Take all your supplements, including folic acid, calcium, Vitamins A, C and D.
  • Limit sugary snacks and beverages.
  • Visit your dentist every 6 months.
  • Adhere to your Prenatal Care visits.

Dental Care Considerations in Pregnancy

Some pregnant women may have concerns about dental treatments and procedures. There are different considerations in pregnant women when it comes to routine and emergency dental treatments. For effective treatment, there is a need for effective communication between your dentist and your obstetrician to ensure that you receive the optimal treatment as required.

Routine dental check-ups, dental cleaning, and necessary treatments and fillings are generally safe during pregnancy, especially in the second trimester. Your dentist may advise you to delay invasive procedures until you deliver your baby. This is because of the stress that may occur during such procedures or due to problems with positioning on the dental chair.

It is crucial to inform the dental care provider about the pregnancy to ensure appropriate precautions are taken; In dentistry, special precautions are required in pregnant women who need dental X-rays and certain medications to be administered.

Oral Health Care Benefits for the Mother and Baby

Maintaining good oral health during pregnancy goes beyond immediate benefits. Additionally, the mother's oral health can impact the baby's health. Establishing good oral hygiene practices early on can set the stage for a lifetime of oral health for both mother and child.

The significance of oral health during pregnancy cannot be overstated. Besides poor oral health predisposes to maternal health problems, fetal health can also be jeopardized when these problems are not addressed.

By prioritizing oral health, expectant mothers can safeguard their well-being and contribute to the long-term oral health of their babies. Remember, seeking professional dental advice and care during pregnancy is key to ensuring optimal oral health for both mother and child.

Dr. Taoheed Jimoh

About Taoheed

Taoheed is a recently-qualified doctor who has trained in various hospital units, (… Read more

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