If you are currently pregnant, you may have noticed a number of changes to your dental health. Bad breath and sore, bleeding gums are common pregnancy side effects. But while these symptoms seem trivial, they can lead to serious pregnancy complications if left untreated.
Pregnancy is an unforgettable experience that differs from woman to woman. While some pregnant women can breeze through a nine-month pregnancy with nothing more than indigestion, others experience a multitude of problems, from chronic morning sickness to more serious complications like preeclampsia.
A few of the most common symptoms women experience during pregnancy are changes to their dental health. While most women who experience these changes go on to have healthy pregnancies and births, poor dental health does have the potential to cause serious health complications if unaddressed.
For this reason, it is vital that pregnant women routinely get checked by a family dentist.
What Causes Dental Changes During Pregnancy?
As with many pregnancy symptoms, the main culprit is a change in hormones. The hormones in pregnancy can cause the gums to swell, periodontal gum disease, dry mouth, and even tooth loss due to relaxed mouth ligaments. And it is more common than you might think! Around 10% of pregnant women experience pregnancy granulomas, which cause the gums to become purplish in color.
Of course, hormones are not the only cause of these symptoms. Morning sickness can cause excess exposure to harmful stomach acids, causing enamel erosion. Those idiosyncratic food cravings can also impact your dental health. Foods that are particularly acidic, like apples, can erode your teeth, and cause an increased appetite for sweet treats. Some women develop cravings for things like ice cubes and even rocks! Very hard substances like these can cause physical damage to your teeth.
Why Does It Matter if Pregnancy Is Only Temporary?
We know what you might be thinking. If pregnancy is causing the dental issues, then surely it cannot hurt to wait it out. After all, pregnancy has an end date, which means the hormone-related changes will disappear afterward, right?
Well, while pregnancy is a temporary “condition,” the illnesses potentially caused by poor dental health can have long-lasting effects on you and your baby. Here is how:
Gum disease in pregnant women has been shown to be linked to premature birth and low birth weight. Experts estimate that up to 18% of every 100 of premature births may be caused by periodontal disease. Premature birth can have significant effects on a baby, increasing their chances of developing serious health complications like cerebral palsy or hearing problems.
Poor dental health does not only put your baby’s health, but yours as well. Some dental conditions can be difficult to treat, and may require surgery. For example, if you lose a tooth, you will need to undergo further treatment to have the tooth replaced—an uncomfortable process which may not be available until after birth and breastfeeding. Tooth pain is obviously an unwelcome experience, as well, and during pregnancy, you are less likely to want to take strong painkillers.
However, all of this can easily be avoided. Regular dental treatments, both before and during pregnancy, can reduce the risk of periodontal disease, which in turn reduces the risk of premature both.
So What Can You Do?
As with most diseases, prevention is better than treatment. You can minimize your chances of developing serious health problems caused by practicing good oral hygiene. Make sure to maintain a routine for good dental health, such as twice-daily brushing and flossing, and schedule regular dental checkups with your Little Rock family dentist.
When you are pregnant, remember to stay aware of your dental health. Continue to brush and floss daily; but, if you have morning sickness, try not to brush immediately after every time you vomit, as this can further erode your teeth. Instead, wait an hour. The same goes for food cravings. If you are craving sugary or acidic foods, you may want to be more vigilant about your dental routine. Also, if you are craving sweet foods, try to eat foods that taste sweet but have less sugar.
After Your Baby Arrives
Your baby’s arrival does not totally eliminate your pregnancy hormones, and you may experience dental problems for a short time after your pregnancy. Your hormones will continue to fluctuate after birth, especially if you are breastfeeding. Therefore, good dental hygiene is paramount before, during, and after pregnancy.
And remember, good dental hygiene is a family affair, too. Examples you set in early parenthood will positively impact your child as they grow. If you practice good dental care, your child will be more likely to follow in your footsteps. This will reduce their risk of getting gum disease in later life.
At Arkansas Family Dental, we can help you maintain good dental health before, during, and after your pregnancy. Furthermore, as your child grows, they can also be seen at our dental practice. Schedule an appointment online today, and let us help you improve your dental health while reducing health risks during your pregnancy.