There is an overwhelming amount of information about how to take care of yourself and your baby during pregnancy. Your OB gives you guidelines around what you can and can’t eat, taking prenatal vitamins, exercise, etc. However, in that bevy of instructions, you will find little to no information about how to take care of your oral health.
Most women don’t think to call their dentist. Call us! We want to know! We want to congratulate you and help you plan your oral health throughout your pregnancy and in the months following delivery. As your dentist and father of 4, let me explain why this is SO important.
Hormonal Changes Affect Your Teeth
Pregnant women experience sudden and dramatic increases, both in the amount and function of several hormones. These changes don’t just affect mood — they can also affect your oral health. Women who have never had issues in the past will all of a sudden, during pregnancy, develop an array of oral complications. For example:
- PREGNANCY GINGIVITIS — Increased hormone levels may be partly responsible for pregnancy gingivitis. During pregnancy, the level of progesterone in your body can be ten times higher than usual, encouraging the growth of bacteria that cause gingivitis. Also, your immune system works differently during pregnancy, changing the way your body reacts to the bacteria that cause gingivitis.
- INFLAMED AND BLEEDING GUMS — Pregnancy causes inflammation in the entire body, including your gums. The increased swelling in your gums makes it easier for food to get stuck. Many pregnant women will notice that their gums are more tender and bleed more easily during brushing. This is not a sign to brush LESS! Instead, you should BRUSH AND FLOSS MORE.
- HORMONES DURING BREASTFEEDING — Pregnancy-related hormones stay in your body up to four months after you finish breastfeeding. During this time, you should still be hyper-aware of your oral care routine and how those hormones are affecting your teeth.
The truth is, each woman is unique when it comes to the symptoms she feels, but almost every woman who has experienced pregnancy has also experienced extreme exhaustion. It’s the kind of exhaustion you might expect if you were on the verge of getting the flu, hadn’t slept in five days, and have a potty training toddler, all at once. It is debilitating.
This exhaustion can easily overwhelm a woman’s usually prioritized self-care. Often, survival mode takes over.
DO NOT LET YOUR ORAL CARE ROUTINE SUFFER! It’s essential to recognize which elements of self-care can be compromised and which can’t.
The old wives’ tale ‘gain a child and lose a tooth‘ may be true for people who aren’ t proactive about their oral health, but it doesn’t have to be for YOU! With proper care, you can make it through pregnancy without losing any teeth!
Pregnancy Nausea and Vomiting
Pregnancy is seldom a walk in the park, and one of the most persistent issues many women face is “morning sickness” — the classic pregnancy symptom that leaves them unable to stomach anything beyond, say, one-eighth of a cracker and two sips of water.
With a PH of 1 or 2, vomit is highly acidic and can destroy your tooth enamel. For comparison, battery acid has a PH of 1. Here are a few steps to protect your teeth if you are suffering from morning sickness.
- DONT’ BRUSH RIGHT AWAY — Of course, the first thing you want to do after vomiting is to get rid of the awful taste in your mouth. Unfortunately, immediately reaching for your toothbrush is the last thing you should do. If you brush too soon, you can increase the damage to your enamel. Instead, rinse your mouth out with water to neutralize the acid in your mouth before you brush.
- CHEW A SUGARLESS GUM — After vomiting and rinsing with water, chewing sugarless gum with xylitol can also help to get your saliva flowing to help balance that acidic environment and freshen your breath. Then, after 20 minutes, brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste.
- CHANGE TOOTHPASTE FLAVORS — If you’re dealing with nausea, chances are you have food and smell aversions as well. Remember that there are different flavors of toothpaste available to you! Just make sure whatever you chose has fluoride in it to help protect your teeth. Some people even prefer using children’s fluoride toothpaste because they have flavors like bubblegum and strawberry, which can be easier to stomach for some women.
Cravings & Food Aversions
IF YOU ARE EATING DIFFERENTLY, YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEETH DIFFERENTLY!
Pregnancy cravings are no joke! A mom who regularly eats healthy salads for lunch can quickly grow a wacky appetite for things like ice cream with pickles or Beyonce’s need to dip bananas in ketchup.
While weird cravings do happen, pregnant women are more likely to crave comfort foods. Several studies show that pregnant women tend to crave foods that are rich in calories and fat, both of which are also traits of comfort foods.
- BRUSH AND FLOSS MORE OFTEN — If you are consuming MORE sugary foods, starchy foods, or acidic foods, you need to brush and floss your teeth MORE (not to be confused with “harder” — do not brush harder!).
- USE AN ORAL RINSE — The combination of your increased hormones and your changes in diet mean that your mouth requires a little extra help. Use an alcohol-free oral rinse to help regulate bacteria and food particles not just on your teeth and gums, but on your cheeks as well. Oh, you hadn’t thought about your cheeks? Don’t worry, most people don’t. Using an oral rinse covers places your toothbrush might miss.
During Pregnancy, An Extra Cleaning May Be Covered By Your Insurance.
Many insurance companies understand the increased risk of oral health complications during pregnancy and will cover an additional cleaning. Check with your insurance provider to see if you’re covered. We want to be a part of helping you stay in peak health during your pregnancy! Even if you’re not, we highly recommend talking to your dentist (eh-hem, Anderson Dental Care) to see if an extra cleaning is right for you. The cost of an extra cleaning is minimal compared to the risk of tooth damage and needing more expensive treatments to fix it.
If you have questions about your teeth during and after pregnancy, call our Cincinnati dental office at 513-817-0834 or make an appointment online to chat with someone in our office.
Pregnancy and babies are expensive — I understand! However, I would encourage you to prioritize your oral health during this time to avoid later complications. If you’ve been putting off seeing a dentist due to cost, you’ll be happy to know that we provide an affordable alternative to paying out-of-pocket or carrying pricey dental insurance. At Anderson Dental Care, we offer a PREMIER DENTAL CARE MEMBERSHIP, and our members save 20% on dental procedures and get anywhere from 2-4 maintenance cleanings a year. Packages start at $31/month.