Yes. It is safe to visit the dentist and have dental work done when pregnant. It is also highly recommended. Have you heard about pregnancy, dental health and gingivitis?
Pregnancy is often a time when we take stock of our health. We focus inwardly on our bodies, we become more attuned to ourselves.
Time is never more important to keep ourselves healthy, on the inside and out, and this includes a trip to the (dreaded) dentist.
Gingivitis During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, hormonal changes are all too common. What is not often spoken about are swollen gums. A woman’s gums may become tender, sore and inflamed during pregnancy resulting in bleeding. Inflammation of the gums is called gingivitis.
Whenever you eat, small particles of food sit between your teeth and your gums, and soon these attract bacteria and can result in inflamed gums.
This is common during pregnancy and is referred to a pregnancy gingivitis.
Anyone can get gingivitis however during pregnancy you are at greater risk. Pregnancy gingivitis is brought on by hormonal changes in the body which bring a greater flow of blood to the gum tissue. More blood results in sensitive gum tissue and can inevitably mean swollen gums.
Hormonal changes alter the way our bodies respond to bacteria and this change can lead to mouth infections. Furthermore, with swollen gums it is more difficult to remove plaque build up on teeth which again heightens the occurance of gingivitis.
You may notice bleeding from your gums whilst brushing and/or flossing. If our gums become infected, this is called periodontal disease.
If gingivitis not managed, it has been known to lead to serious gum disease. Known as periodontitis, during pregnancy this can increase the chance of pre-term labor and a low birth weight baby.
The best cure for pregnancy gingivitis is to avoid it all together. Furthermore, avoiding a lifestyle that encourages foods high in sugar which can contribute to tooth decay are key to overall good oral hygiene and dental health.
Here are some suggestions which can be introduced into your pregnancy routine.
Reduce intake of sweets
- Excess sugars, lollies, cake and soft drinks can contribute to gum disease
- Switch to fresh fruit
- Introduce healthy juices to curb sweet cravings
Morning sickness, or better known as all day sickness for some of us, can cause a lot of vomiting. Believe it or not, continuous and repeated exposure to stomach acids, can actually cause our teeth to become more sensitive.
For those who suffer morning sickness, there is the never-ending search for the ultimate relief.
Eat this, eat that, eat regularly. Heard all of that before?
Eating small amounts often is a popular solution. From a dental perspective, this is OK in the short term however it can actually increase the risk of tooth decay.
How can eating regularly increase tooth decay risk?
Eating food continuously during the day can increase the risk of tooth decay because teeth do not get a chance to recover. Recover from what? Let’s take a small step back here.
Tooth decay is nearly entirely preventable. Most people know that to prevent tooth decay you need to brush your teeth regularly, floss, upkeep dental appointments and limit your intake of sugar and sugary foods. However this is often where the understanding ends. What you don’t see is that there is a constant war going on inside your mouth.
Think about your teeth. As much as they just look like little white things that help you chew, they are very much alive. They are connected to your blood circulation and are in a constant state of mineral exchange with saliva.
When we eat, any bacteria in our mouths turns sugar into an acid. This acid can, and does, dissolve the enamel from our teeth. This is called demineralisation.
When saliva is produced in our mouths, it washes over our teeth and because it is full of minerals, it replaces lost minerals on our teeth. This is called remineralisation.
- Eat food = demineralisation
- Saliva produced = remineralisation
So, back to eating often to counter nausea during pregnancy…we need to let our teeth recover. Eating often never gives our mouths the chance to be food free long enough for enough saliva to be produced to replace minerals on our teeth. Everything in moderation.
This, amongst other factors discussed, can increase risk of decay. It will not happen overnight. A daily slip up is OK. Remember that. Just consider the broader picture and keep dental health at the front of your mind.
How to manage sore swollen gums
- Try brushing after every meal, or at least twice a day
- Regular flossing is also key – before bedtime is ideal
Type of Brush?
- A manual, soft-bristled brush is key
- Be gentle
- Alternate toothpaste if you need to – introduce one for sensitive gums
Morning Sickness? Gag Reflex?
Morning sickness (or all day sickness) during pregnancy brings with is a feeling of nausea. Pregnancy nausea is also known to cause gag reflex.
If you are struggling to brush your teeth without gagging, or even find the smell of toothpaste makes you dry retch, rinse your mouth with water or a mouth rinse that has fluoride.
When do I tell my dentist that I am pregnant?
Even if you only think you might be pregnant, let your dentist know. Also advise them of any medications you are taking or if you have received any special advice from your doctor. If your pregnancy is high-risk or if you have certain medical conditions, your dentist may recommend that some treatments be postponed. A requirement to fix a tooth cavity will usually be put off until after you have had your baby so as to avoid any other complications; speak with your dentist on a case by case scenario. Even the action of sitting still in a dental chair for a long period of time is not advised as it can put unwanted pressure on blood vessels which may, in some extreme cases, cause fainting.
Do not delay your regular visit to the dentist. Always make sure to advise your dentist that you are pregnant, particularly if there is major work to be done.
At anytime during your pregnancy it is advisable to contact your dentist if you feel your gums are bleeding a lot and are uncomfortably painful. Also ongoing bad breath could be a warning sign of pregnancy gingivitis.
Any elective dental treatments such as tooth whitening should also be avoided whilst pregnant. Here are 9 natural (and safe for pregnancy) ways to have whiter teeth.