So each night before you go to bed, you’re brushing your teeth, anxious to get to bed because you’re exhausted hauling your pregnant body around all day. Your mouth’s full of foam so you spit into the sink thinking nothing of it. But you startle before turning on the water to rinse–there’s blood in your spit!
You quickly look in your mouth wondering how it happened. But…you don’t see much, just toothpaste muck all over. So you think nothing of it, maybe you just need to floss a bit more. Then the next morning, same thing happens!
What is going on? Your oral health for pregnancy is a bit different than just any other time. And there are many reasons why.
What Affects Your Oral Health For Pregnancy
It comes back down to those darn hormones you get to deal with day in and day out. You can see a graph showing how high they spike in this post here.
Estrogen and Progesterone increase your inflammatory response throughout your entire body and this can adversely affect your gum tissue in your mouth. PLUS, your blood volume grows and grows with baby so much that even slight irritation in your gums makes an easy out for extra blood to squeeze through.
If your morning sickness causes regular puking, the gastric acids that you just love tasting settle in your mouth and also irritate your gums and teeth. Thus this combination of increased acidity plus a normal increase of sugary sweets due to cravings combines for a perfect combination that cavities just enjoy.
On top of all that, brushing your teeth can make you nauseous too! Trying to get down those prenatal vitamins can be hard too when you’re just sick. Then the lack of calcium and probiotics can weaken your teeth and gums additionally.
I once knew a gal that said when she was pregnant, brushing her teeth made her gag so bad she actually avoided it some days so she wouldn’t throw up.
So it may be difficult for you to even brush your teeth, thus not getting the needed daily cleaning. And if you don’t have regular cleanings and checkups with your dentist, that certainly is the icing the cake.
It can be EASY to see why things just point down the path of bad oral health when you’re pregnant.
Here’s a fun Draw My Life video talking about a pregnant woman’s oral health you might like.
Common Issues Orally When You’re Pregnant
Slight bleeding while brushing your teeth is the just the beginning. See what else may be in store for you:
- Gingivitis – This happens when your inflammation in your gums becomes problematic. Your gums swell up and become redder than normal, especially around where your gums come in contact with your teeth. If you commonly have or have had gingivitis before even becoming pregnant, you’re more likely to have it during pregnancy, and worse.
- Lesions – In only a few cases (like 5% of pregnancies), your gums can actually swell so much that small benign growths can appear along your gum line. These can be removed, but often return to normal after you’ve had your baby.
- Tooth Erosion and Cavities – We all wish our enamel was so thick that our teeth were forever strong against cavities and buildup. However, the enamel can become thin from increased acidity (eroded) and our teeth’s natural defenses are weakened greatly.
- Periodontitis – This is the worst case scenario in the path of destruction from gingivitis. This happens when bacterial film build up is so great and the inflammation so adverse, that your teeth can start to become infected below the surface. They can become loose and pockets of infection can sprout up in the gums, leading to infections that can enter your blood stream.
Now that I’ve sent you rushing for your bathroom mirror in fear, know that these certainly don’t affect everyone. Even though approximately 40% have some sort of these mentioned conditions (most on the calm end), there are factors that increase your odds of getting any of them.
My Increased Risk
There are certain demographics and even personal decisions your may have made that affects your odds of having worse oral issues when you’re pregnant. They include:
- African American Descent – If your ethnicity is this, you have a greater risk of having some sort of periodontal issue during your pregnancies.
- Cigarette Smoking – This needs no explanation. We all know that smoking ruins the mouth and its ability to be healthy. If you’re pregnant and still smoking, or you know someone who is, you may find this post helpful.
If either of these pertain to you, be sure to discuss with dentist and/or doctor about your increased risk.
But you may be thinking, “Why does this all matter? So I might have a crummy mouth when I’m pregnant. It will go away, just like all my other pregnancy symptoms. Why bother?”
Why? Because it can harm your baby too!!
How It Affects My Baby
When you have periodontal disease, bacteria and toxins invade your blood stream and can travel throughout your body and be transmitted across the placenta and into baby, or just invade the placenta. Here’s a pic from the InTech chapter that describes it visually. Don’t worry about the biological jargon.
If you follow through to the results in the brown circles, your risks to yourself and baby are: Preeclampsia (high blood pressure), low birth weight for baby, and preterm birth.
Low birth weight and preterm birth are just the beginning of many different issues and problems your baby could face throughout their entire life. You DON’T want this to happen!!
How To Prevent
When it comes to just a few simple things that you can do to prevent such adverse conditions, they are worth the effort beforehand.
- Brush your teeth daily or as recommended by your dentist.
- Floss your teeth just as much.
- Use an oral rinsing agent like Listerine or Scope (I just use hydrogen peroxide, it’s cheap and doesn’t burn your mouth).
- Visit your dentist like you should. They can work with you and even prescribe additional fluoride to help if needed.
- Many insurance plans allow for an extra cleaning during a pregnancy (mine does, so I’m going back in 4 months instead of 6 to get another one in for the year), so check if yours does!
- Rinse your mouth with a baking soda and water solution after you vomit to neutralize the acid left over in your mouth.
- Do what you can to quell your morning sickness so you don’t vomit in the first place.
- Do your best to avoid sugary treats.
- I know this is the hardest one! I went though the holidays pregnant and am now fighting off the Easter candy still sitting in my kitchen. If you crave sugar, stick with fresh fruit.
You may find yourself lucky and not have any issues orally at all, besides just the most common form of a little bleeding while you brush your teeth. Many of you do NOT have to worry about these extreme complications that can arise.
But knowledge is power and knowing it before you can no longer do anything about it is, of course, best.
Has anyone ever had issues with their gums while pregnant? Some of those pics I found around crazy! I can’t imagine waking up and having such swollen gums every day. I’m sure it’s painful too.
Here’s to your best smile! 🙂