Pregnancy / 22 January, 2019 / Dr Saul Konviser
It’s extremely important to keep your teeth and gums as clean and healthy as possible both before and during pregnancy.
Poor oral health, in particular, gum disease is linked to low birth weight, in addition to general health issues related to heart and respiratory disease in adults. Expecting mothers should avoid the stress of dental treatment, especially if they are already anxious. Good maintenance is crucial to ensuring good oral health.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make your gums more susceptible to inflammation, swelling and bleeding if your gums are not kept free from plaque build-up. This is called pregnancy gingivitis, and is extremely common. You should not be scared if this happens to you.
Some women develop swellings on the gum, sometimes up to the size of a pea or even a grape. This is also related to the hormonal changes during pregnancy when there is a build-up of plaque. These changes in the mouth can continue into breastfeeding but do generally resolve very quickly after pregnancy.
Many pregnant women suffer from morning sickness or gastric reflux (heartburn). In both of these conditions, the extremely acidic contents of the stomach can coat the teeth when you vomit or have reflux. This acid softens the dental enamel and can result in erosion, making the teeth thinner and weaker and so at greater risk of problems such as fractures or even tooth decay.
Furthermore, if you grind your teeth at night in the presence of this acid and softened enamel, it can make your teeth even more brittle and at risk of damage.
After vomiting or experiencing reflux, rinse your mouth with water or an alcohol-free fluoride mouthwash to help wash the acid away. This can help strengthen the enamel surface. Remember, do NOT brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after an ‘acid attack’. after as the abrasive nature of the toothbrush on the softened enamel can cause more damage.
Food cravings are very common during pregnancy but be mindful of sugar and acid content as this can be very destructive to the teeth. Many patients snack through a large amount of fresh fruit throughout the day or drink huge amounts of hot lemon water. While of course it is healthy, if continuously consumed, the teeth never get a chance to recover and are constantly covered in sugar and citric acid throughout the day. This makes them more susceptible to problems such as tooth decay or acid erosion.
There are times when dental treatment will be required during pregnancy, if there is an emergency for example. It is safe to undergo most types of dental x-rays and even fillings or dental extractions if needed. There are certain precautions we take in terms of materials we use so you shouldn’t be worried if something needs to be done.
If you have any concerns about your oral health either before or during pregnancy, please contact your dentist to discuss this with them.
Article by Dr. Saul Konviser
Dr Saul Konviser BDS MSc BSc
(Clinical Days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday)
Tel: +44(0) 207 935 3016
47 Montagu Mansions, Marylebone, London, W1U 6LD