Pregnancy brings with it a whole host of strange symptoms and side effects, but one of the pregnancy ailments that isn’t often talked about very often is experiencing issues with your teeth. No one told me that during pregnancy, good dental hygiene is even more important than usual.
During pregnancy, there is an increased risk to your teeth, including the additional risk of gum disease, erosion and decay. Some women may notice that their gums become swollen or even bleed during pregnancy.
Why are teeth more vulnerable during pregnancy?
Firstly, and as with many of those frustrating pregnancy symptoms, you can blame those pesky hormones. An increase of hormones during pregnancy such as progesterone and estrogen can loosen and soften the tissues around your teeth. This can make them more vulnerable to plaque and a condition known as pregnancy gingivitis (a form of gum disease).
During pregnancy, many women also experience food cravings, often ditching the savoury options and reaching for sweet foods or foods high in sugar. This, combined with an unpleasant gagging sensation when brushing your teeth, and even stomach acid from vomiting and morning sickness, mean that many women find dental hygiene far more challenging than normal.
How can I look after my teeth during pregnancy?
- Brush twice a day – Whilst this should be fairly common sense, make sure you are brushing your teeth twice a day (ideally first thing in the morning and last thing at night) to prevent the build up of plaque and decay.
- Take it slow – If gagging is a challenge, particularly when feeling nauseous brushing your teeth first thing in the morning, try brushing more slowly than usual, taking deep calming breaths between sides.
- Switch it up – If the strong mint flavour of your toothpaste triggers any nausea, try switching to a milder flavoured fluoride-based toothpaste which may be easier to stomach. You should avoid using strong or alcohol-based mouthwashes during pregnancy.
- Morning Sickness – If you are experiencing pregnancy-related nausea, avoid brushing your teeth immediately afterwards. Whilst it’s natural to want to freshen up after being unwell, the stomach acid in your mouth can damage your teeth and actually make things worse. Instead, make sure you rinse your mouth with water after vomiting to wash away any stomach acid before reaching for your toothbrush.
- Watch out for sugary snacks – It can be hard to manage pregnancy cravings, especially when they lead to a sweet tooth – but make your choices wisely. If you want to look after your teeth, opt for healthier alternatives such as vegetables, fresh fruit or natural yoghurts which will curb your cravings without the negative impact. You should aim to eat a balanced diet including foods rich in calcium (such as milk, cheese and yoghurt).
- Avoid fizzy drinks – Not only do these contain caffeine (which should be limited during pregnancy) but also high amounts of sugar and acids which can corrode the outer coating of your teeth too.
- Floss regularly – Flossing regularly can help remove any trapped pieces of food between your teeth
- Get your check-ups – Let your dentist know you are pregnant – they won’t tell anyone! Not only is it important to visit your dentist for checkups during pregnancy, but letting them know you are expecting ensures that any treatment or medication required is safe for both you and your baby. X-rays are also best avoided during pregnancy.
- Seek advice – If you are worried about anything to do with your teeth during pregnancy or start to experience significant bleeding gums or swelling, contact your dentist for advice.