Pregnancy brings about countless changes to your hormones and to your body as a baby grows. Not only can you experience changes such as weight gain, swelling and mood shifts, but you can also see physical signs of change with your mouth. Hormones may cause your gums to bleed more, become inflamed or to have small growths. If you have morning sickness often, you can also be damaging your teeth from stomach acids. Use these tips to help stop tooth erosion and gum problems so you can enjoy your pregnancy!
Your Oral Health Can Affect Your Pregnancy
Many women don’t realize that pregnancy can cause oral health problems until they have them. This is because the tissues and health of your mouth say a lot about the rest of your body’s health. When you don’t take care of your mouth, you leave yourself open to disease and infections that can go throughout your entire body.
Poor oral health during pregnancy has been linked to problems such as low birth weight, premature delivery, gestational diabetes, intrauterine growth restriction, preeclampsia and more. If your teeth often decay from poor oral hygiene habits, infections that start in the teeth can also get into your bloodstream. That’s why you want to avoid any major dental problems during this time. If you do have dental issues and need a cavity filling or a crown, it’s recommended to get those procedures to prevent infections.
Changes in Your Mouth
You will first notice changes to your mouth with pregnancy when you are brushing or flossing. In many women, the gums may begin to bleed more. This could actually be a sign of pregnancy before you are aware you are pregnant. When pregnancy happens, many hormones in your body start to change. Your blood production soars to nourish a baby, and that means you have more blood vessels forming all over your body to handle the new increase. Even your mouth can get more blood flow during this time and can become sensitive to the hormones coursing through your body.
Some pregnant women notice that they have growths starting to form in their mouth. Those growths are normal, but can grow large enough that a dentist may need to remove them. These growths are called “pregnancy tumors”. Although the name suggests cancer, they are not cancerous. They are simply irritated parts of your gums that have become swollen and may be filled with blood under the surface. You can get these in your gums under your lips or you may have them in the triangle gum areas between your teeth. When those pregnancy tumors (or nodes) are small, they will often go away on their own. If they grow to be dime or marble-sized, make a dental appointment to have them reduced in size.
It is also common in pregnancy to feel like your teeth are loose. This is not your imagination, as boosted progesterone and estrogen hormones in your body can loosen the ligaments and bones that hold your teeth together. Call our dental office if this is happening to you or if a tooth becomes too loose.
Pregnancy Gingivitis and Your Teeth
Due to your pregnancy hormones, your oral health may worsen slightly even if you are keeping up on your oral hygiene. Some women have bleeding gums when they brush and floss. This is pregnancy gingivitis, or a very mild form of gum disease which is common in pregnant woman. It can happen during the first trimester, but is more common in the second and third. Your mouth will be more sensitive to sugars and substances which can irritate the mouth. You may also be having morning sickness, which will constantly expose your teeth and gums to stomach acid. This can cause tooth erosion and gum problems. Combat it with fluoride toothpaste and waiting 30 minutes after morning sickness to brush your teeth.
Any amount of plaque or sugar could irritate your sensitive gums, making them bleed or making them show the signs of gingivitis. Your teeth may also be more sensitive to tooth decay than they otherwise would be. Think of it as your teeth and mouth becoming uber-sensitive to sugar. If you haven’t had cavities for years, you may suddenly get some surface cavities here and there. Make sure you are still keeping up on your dental cleanings and comprehensive exams to detect these surface cavities when they start.
Visiting the Dentist: Is It Safe?
Visiting the dentist is definitely safe during pregnancy, and is actually recommended. The American Dental Association recommends that all patients visit the dentist at least twice a year for their dental cleanings and checkups. These are important for avoiding oral health diseases. During pregnancy, your dentist may actually recommend that you come in every 3-4 months if your mouth is especially susceptible to pregnancy gingivitis or decay from your changing hormones.
The only thing that might change with your dental visits is your x-rays. Depending on how far along you are, we may or may not take x-rays of your teeth. Even though studies have found x-ray imaging to be safe during pregnancy with the right protective equipment, the need varies from patient to patient. If x-rays are not needed and you don’t have any tooth pain, we may not take them. If we don’t, you will get those images after you’ve given birth to spot signs of decay.
When it comes to pregnancy, being as healthy as possible will help ensure your growing baby—as well as yourself—stay healthy. Eat a balanced, healthy diet. Limit your sugar intake so your body and your teeth can stay healthy. Keep up on oral health habits as recommended and increase them as pregnancy changes in your teeth and mouth happen. If you have questions about changes to your mouth during pregnancy, you can call Dr. Evanson’s office at (720) 409-0008!
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