Pregnancy affects your body in a myriad of ways. A swelling belly, stretch marks, sore ribs, heartburn – these are some obvious side effects of growing your bundle of joy – but have you given any thought to how pregnancy affects your teeth?
“During pregnancy there are significant hormonal changes and therefore there’s going to be more inflammation in the gum tissue,” explains Dr. Ketan Mistry, a dentist at Guelph Village Dental. “It’s important to practice extra-diligent oral hygiene during pregnancy to limit the excess inflammation and possible ill effects.”
Does pregnancy cause tooth decay? Read on.
Pregnancy gingivitis – it’s a real thing!
Because of fluctuating hormone levels, about four or five of every ten pregnant women will develop pregnancy gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). You might notice that your gums bleed when brushed or flossed. “When you have more inflamed gum tissue, you’re more at risk of developing cavities,” Dr. Mistry says. “A huge thing we find is that pregnancy is the start of a process of deteriorating oral health. I have young kids so I understand that when you have children, sometimes brushing and flossing your own teeth isn’t a huge priority. We see mothers of young children with a few cavities who never had cavities previously.”
5 steps to avoid pregnancy gingivitis and future cavities
Guelph Village Dental advises pregnant women to take these steps to avoid pregnancy gingivitis and future cavities:
- Floss and brush your teeth twice per day. Everybody knows it. But do we always do it?
- Visit your Guelph dentist during pregnancy – closer to the start is better. If you do have cavities, the best time to treat them is during the second trimester, when less development occurs in the baby and the patient is more comfortable than in the third trimester.
- Even better, if you are planning a pregnancy, visit your dentist in Guelph before becoming pregnant to have x-rays taken. As x-rays are not routine during pregnancy, it’s best to find and treat any dental concerns before you’re pregnant. If a massive cavity that requires a root canal or extraction is discovered during pregnancy or you are in a lot of pain, your dental office may take x-rays (with a lead apron covering your body). “If a tooth is infected, that infection is travelling in your bloodstream and we don’t want the developing child exposed to that,” Dr. Mistry explains.
- Following the birth of your baby, try to dedicate time to your own oral hygiene. “I don’t expect that new moms are flossing every day, but try as best you can to still maintain a good level of oral hygiene,” Dr. Mistry advises.
- Take care with your diet. “I always recommend keeping up with your calcium supplements,” Dr. Mistry says. “A lot of pregnant patients take a pregnancy multivitamin and that usually goes a long way to maintaining your oral health.” Certain foods also help with oral hygiene – raw apples and hard cheeses cleanse the teeth as you eat.
An interesting tidbit for new parents
Here’s an interesting tidbit that might just increase your new-mom aversion to germs. Cavities are the most common infectious disease in the world. “The bacteria that causes cavities are passed on from one person to the other,” Dr. Mistry says. “You don’t want somebody with a mouthful of cavities to kiss your child. Everybody has certain levels of the bacteria, but the amount of it is paramount in determining if you will suffer from cavities.”
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