If you’ve noticed some changes to your gums and teeth during your pregnancy, you’re not alone. Brushing your teeth right now can be uncomfortable and even come with some bleeding and nausea. Knowing what is normal during this phase of your life helps you to feel better about the oral changes (like gum sensitivity) that occur during pregnancy. Here’s what happens in your mouth when you’re expecting, and what you can do to keep your teeth healthy.
How does pregnancy affect your teeth?
“The mouth becomes very sensitive during pregnancy,” says dentist Dr. Izbel Aksit, D.D.S. She attributes this to increased amounts of acid in the blood and saliva, which can cause tooth decay to occur easily. Aksit adds, “Pregnant women may experience swelling and redness in their teeth and gums. The gums can be very sensitive and bleed easily. The reason for these changes is that secretion of estrogen and progesterone hormones increases during pregnancy.”
These hormonal changes that cause inflamed gums can also lead to periodontitis, inflammation of the tissue around the teeth that can cause shrinkage of the gums resulting in the teeth loosening. In fact, 60-75% of pregnant women experience gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
Hormonal changes are one factor, but emotional stress, which is very common during pregnancy, can also affect dental health. It increases stomach acids which can cause erosion in teeth enamel. So take a deep breath and relax as much as you can.
Some pregnancy-related oral issues can increase the chance of having longer-lasting oral health issues, but here’s how the experts say you can address and prevent them.
How to care for your teeth during pregnancy
Up your calcium intake
“Since women are keener to experience oral issues during pregnancy due to hormonal changes, calcium intake becomes more significant for them. Pregnant women can eat foods rich in calcium, such as milk, yogurt, fish, green leafy vegetables, etc. They can also take calcium-containing vitamins,” says Askit.
She adds that it’s important to consult your doctor on how much calcium intake you should have based on your individual needs.
Switch your toothpaste
Using a toothpaste designed for specific oral issues can help. “Switch to a toothpaste such as Sensodyne and do salt water rinses,” advises dentist Dr. Yenile Pinto, D.D.S. This is a helpful solution if you’re experiencing gum issues. “Sensodyne needs to be used for at least two weeks before you attain the full benefit. Saltwater rinses can help with inflammation and should be 25% salt to 75% water and gargle for 30 seconds.”
Chew on sugar-free gum
“A good tip is to chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free hard candy after meals so you can help prevent acid from building up in your mouth,” says Dr. Katrina Zhao, D.D.S, principal dentist at Midas Dental.
Maintain daily oral health practices
Brushing and flossing should be a part of your daily routine.
“Remember that taking care of you is taking care of baby. If you are thinking of getting pregnant, I highly recommend making an appointment with your dentist and completing any needed treatment now before the pregnancy,” says Pinto. By getting any necessary procedures out of the way, you can focus more on maintaining your oral health during pregnancy.
Don’t brush your teeth immediately after vomiting
It might feel intuitive to brush your teeth immediately after a bout of morning sickness, but it’s actually better to wait. “If you’re like me and suffer with morning sickness and acid reflux during pregnancy, you should avoid brushing right after vomiting since the brushing action along with the acids in your mouth can cause the enamel of your teeth to wear down. Instead, rinse with water and wait 20 minutes before brushing. I also recommend using a good mouth rinse that helps balance your oral PH to neutralize any acids,” advises Pinto.
By maintaining good oral hygiene practices, upping your calcium intake, and finding a toothpaste that is sensitive to your needs, you can hopefully prevent feeling too much dental discomfort during pregnancy.
Dr. Izbel Aksit, D.D.S., dentist
Dr. Katrina Zhao, D.D.S., principal dentist at Midas Dental
Dr. Yenile Y. Pinto, D.D.S., dentist and owner of Deering Dental
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