When you’re pregnant, you get all sorts of recommendations for your health and the health of your baby. This includes things like taking a prenatal vitamin every day, making sure to drink plenty of water, and avoiding strenuous lifting. What doesn’t get talked about quite so much, however, is dental care during pregnancy, though it is certainly just as important.
During pregnancy, women are at heightened risk of oral health conditions like gum disease and cavities. This is due to the hormonal changes that are taking place, as well as complications from changes in eating habits and the nausea and vomiting that can take place during the first trimester and beyond.
The good news is that taking care of your teeth during pregnancy isn’t all that different from taking care of your teeth at other times. It just requires a bit of extra attention to potential problem areas. Below, we’ve outlined the basics you need to know, including helpful guidelines to get you through all three trimesters.
How Pregnancy Impacts Dental Health
There is so much going on in your body during pregnancy. This extends to your mouth, which is particularly sensitive to things like changes in your hormones and eating habits. Some of the dental health effects that pregnancy may cause include the following:
Toothaches: A toothache during pregnancy can have multiple causes, such as irritated gums, plaque buildup, or weakened enamel from morning sickness. To treat the pain at home, avoid OTC painkillers like ibuprofen, which aren’t safe during pregnancy, and try salt rinses, a cold compress, or an oral numbing gel instead.
Gingivitis: As many as 75% of pregnant women struggle with gingivitis or gum disease. This redness and inflammation of the gums is largely due to hormonal fluctuations and should be treated by a dentist to prevent the risk of it turning into more serious periodontitis.
Tooth decay (cavities): Even if you aren’t normally prone to cavities, you can still find yourself getting them during pregnancy. That’s because of things like hormones and increased acidity in the mouth, and may also be driven by regularly indulging in cravings for sweet food. See a dentist to reduce the chance of infection and to learn about pregnancy-safe options for getting cavities filled.
Loose teeth: During pregnancy, bones and connective tissues in the mouth may temporarily loosen, resulting in teeth that feel loose and wiggly. It’s unlikely your teeth will simply fall out as a result, but loose teeth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, or issues with eating, so do talk to your dentist right away.
If you notice signs of any of the oral health problems above, schedule a dental appointment so you can get started on a treatment plan.
Dental Guidelines for Pregnant Patients
From inflamed gums to tooth sensitivity, pregnancy can wreak havoc on the mouth. And while you can’t avoid all possible complications, you can follow recommended guidelines to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible.
Here’s how to take care of your teeth during pregnancy and maintain a healthy smile:
- Brush and floss every day. Just like before pregnancy, a standard dental care routine is a must. Brush at least twice per day (or more if you are experiencing morning sickness) using a soft-bristled toothbrush. You should also floss once per day, either morning or evening, depending on when it fits best in your schedule.
- Can’t brush? Switch to a flavorless toothpaste or dental rinse. It’s normal to have an aversion to traditional toothpaste during pregnancy. If the very thought of brushing your teeth is making you gag, try out a bland-tasting toothpaste or talk to your dentist about an appropriate therapeutic dental rinse.
- Keep up with your dental appointments. Stick to a twice-yearly dental check-up schedule during pregnancy, and be sure to let your dentist know you’re pregnant. They may recommend changing the timing of your appointments or foregoing certain procedures.
Keep in mind that dental problems can pop up during pregnancy, even if you’re doing a great job taking care of your teeth. Fortunately, most diagnostic and restorative dental services are allowed during pregnancy, as are local anesthetics and certain antibiotics. But do wait on any cosmetic procedures like teeth whitening until after the baby has arrived.