Did you know that gum disease and tooth decay can occur during pregnancy and breastfeeding? In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, known as the CDC, estimates that 60 to 75% of women experience gingivitis, or early stages of gum disease, during pregnancy. That is close to the percentage of women who get morning sickness; if it’s soo common, why are we not talking about teeth and gum disease in pregnancy? Yet another less-than-exciting symptom we may experience bringing life into this world.
I remember visiting the dentist for my regular cleaning and being informed that I had gingivitis associated with pregnancy. Imagine a very confused and depleted first-time Mama who was in her 20th month of breastfeeding and not even pregnant. Yes, women lose their teeth when pregnant, but I thought it was poor brushing or flossing habits. Actually, there are several factors in pregnancy and breastfeeding that can lead to teeth or gum disease besides hygiene.
The tooth fairy out to get us!
What causes Teeth and Gum Disease in Pregnancy?
Normal pregnancy hormonal changes negatively impact your body’s normal response to bacteria. This can lead to an increase in plaque build-up which causes periodontal infections and gingivitis.
Food Cravings and Snacking
Many will crave sugary foods (i.e. ice cream) that can lead to plaque build-up or acidic foods (i.e. pickles and lemons) that can impact the enamel or protection of your teeth This can lead to infected gums or decaying teeth.
Your teeth are protected by enamel, but with exposure to vomit, which is acidic, your enamel erodes and leaves your teeth vulnerable to tooth decay
Many are also averse to brushing teeth because it causes morning sickness.
Some women grind their teeth more in pregnancy, and this impacts not only the teeth but it can lead to receding gums making you more susceptible to disease.
What are Symptoms of Teeth or Gum Disease?
- Swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- Loose teeth
- Sore or sensitive teeth
What Can I Do To Prevent Tooth or Gum Disease?
- Biannual oral checkups unless other advised by your dentist
- Professional Cleanings every 3 months (during pregnancy and breastfeeding)
- Brush and floss your teeth twice per day, especially after vomiting from morning sickness or after indulging in sweets (i.e. ice cream)
- Practice good nutrition which will reflect on your oral and hormonal health
- After vomiting; rise yor mouth several times and than brush
- Avoid or minimize acidic and sugary foods and snacks
- Address stressors which is the main reason for grinding teeth
Negative Impacts to Unborn Baby
Although not fully understood, with severe gum disease, research has seen a link between premature or early delivery and lower birth weight. These factors can lead to delayed fetal development, riskier delivery, longer hospital stays, and threaten the health of the mother.
The key is that this can be treated during pregnancy. In fact, we should probably consider adding dental care to fertility and pregnancy support.
What about Toothpaste and Mouthwash
Another key point is what kind of toothpaste and/or mouthwash are you using and what is in it? Your mouth contains millions of bacteria that naturally maintain good oral health by crowding out the bad bacteria that can lead to gingivitis. Some toothpaste contains unwanted substances (chemicals, additives, and coloring) that make our toothpaste foam, look pretty, and taste good, however, it can also contribute to altering the good bacteria in the mouth.
Fortunately, there are many toothpaste brands that do not contain some of these unwanted substances and others that contain healthy bacteria normally found in the mouth: Tom’s of Maine, Design’s for Health, NOW, and Schmidt’s, to name a few.
If your dentist diagnosis you with teeth or gum disease, get their professional recommendation for toothpaste and mouth wash products to help support better teeth and gum health.
In essence, hormonal changes throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding can lead to teeth and gum disease. Ensure that you are taking extra precautions to maintain great oral hygiene. Ultimately, selecting a good toothpaste, consuming a healthy diet, and ensuring you are scheduling regular dental visits will decrease your risk for pregnancy-related teeth and gum disease.