Changing Oral Health
During pregnancy, women expect changes to their bodies. However, many women are unaware of the changes that can occur to their oral health and potential effects on overall health. Pregnancy may make women more susceptible to dental problems affecting the health of their teeth, gums, and periodontal tissues.
What triggers all these changes?
Origin of Dental Issues
Changes in certain hormones, like progesterone and estrogen, can affect the health of a soon-to-be mom’s oral tissues. While pregnant, progesterone and estrogen levels will dramatically increase to support the developing baby. However, these hormonal increases can cause gums to become more sensitive, inflamed and bleed while brushing and flossing. This exposure can lead to gingivitis and eventually periodontitis if left untreated.
Skipping routine brushing and flossing is another common source of dental problems for pregnant women. We’re all tired at the end of the day, but being pregnant leads to a whole new level of exhaustion. As a result, brushing and flossing before bed can become infrequent and get left out of a normal nighttime routine and complicate an already challenged oral health routine. This can leave harmful bacteria and plaque buildup on teeth for several hours, eventually causing tooth decay. Brushing can also become difficult due to morning sickness. Nausea and vomiting can make gag reflexes more sensitive, making brushing much more difficult. Certain smells and flavors of toothpaste and mouthwash can even be strong enough to trigger nausea.
Cravings and increased snacking throughout pregnancy can accelerate the rate at which cavities develop. Indulging in cravings from time to time throughout pregnancy is completely normal. However, frequently eating sugary and salty foods causes the mouth to produce more acid-loving bacteria that weaken enamel over time and promotes cavities. Combined with nausea, vomiting and even acid reflux the damage to oral tissues and cavity risk drastically increases.
Complications for Mothers and Babies.
Pregnancy complication may occur when a woman has existing dental disease prior to pregnancy. Dental decay is one of the most common dental problems that affect pregnant women. According to the CDC, more than 80% of adults will have had a cavity by age 34. Changing diets, oral care habits and pregnancy hormones make pregnant women even more susceptible than the average adult. Untreated cavities can affect mothers and their babies, as they can pass the cavity-creating bacteria to their babies during pregnancy and even after giving birth. This harmful bacteria can lead to early childhood cavities and can predispose them to a lifetime of dental problems.
Other common pregnancy-related dental issues are gingivitis and periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. According to the American Dental Association, nearly 75% of women will experience gingivitis during pregnancy, which is often caused by less than ideal homecare complicated by pregnancy hormones. Common signs of gingivitis are swollen and tender gums that may also be red and bleeding, whereas in other instances the expectant mother may not notice symptoms.
Periodontitis is a more serious form of gum disease that causes the gums to recede and the bone that supports the teeth to break down as the immune system fights harmful bacteria. In the early stages, bleeding during brushing and flossing occurs and gumtissue is typicallyinflamedand red.
Periodontitis can also lead to bacteremia which allows harmful bacteria to enter the bloodstream of developing babies. When this bacteria enters a baby’s bloodstream, it increases the chances of preterm birth and low birth weight. Poor maternal oral and systemic health can risk the health of the mother and unborn baby.
For those looking to become pregnant or are already pregnant, it’s important to frequently check in with primary care physicians and dentists to ensure they’re receiving proper prenatal care. A part of pregnancy care includes professional dental care. Consistent and healthy oral care routines can help reduce the chances of developing oral health complications during pregnancy, leading to healthy outcomes for both the mother and baby.
Brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing daily are great ways to avoid oral health problems. Reducing the amount of plaque that contains harmful bacteria for mothers and their babies is an easy way to prevent complications. However, if you’re experiencing morning sickness and vomiting, avoid brushing your teeth right away, this gives time for the body to neutralize the damaging acids. Wait at least 30 minutes after vomiting to brush your teeth to reduce the incidence of damaging acid compromised tooth enamel.
With the rise of HIPAA-compliant connected care teledentistry platforms like TeleDent, checking in with medical and dental professionals has never been easier. These platforms enable patients to easily meet with providers and share how their oral health has developed throughout their pregnancy. Patient data from these meetings can then be securely shared with other doctors and specialists, allowing for easily accessible and up-to-date coordinated care to ensure the best possible care for patients. Teledentistry can also save time for both providers and patients through virtual check-ups with patients to determine whether scheduling a future in-person visit is necessary.
Intraoral cameras are another great tool for monitoring the health of pregnant patients. Creating visual timelines of a patient’s oral health throughout their pregnancy helps them understand how their pregnancy and oral care routines impact their oral health. Patients also become more confident in clinical findings when seeing a detailed view of their mouth, resulting in better case acceptance. True HD intraoral cameras like the MouthWatch Plus+ accurately capture changes in the oral tissues and display with true anatomical color to demonstrate the redness and inflammation.
Dental care is essential for anyone to maintain overall health. It’s even more important for pregnant women to include proper oral care routines and professional dental care as part of their prenatal care. Taking care of your mouth, teeth, and gums during pregnancy helps support a healthy pregnancy and a future full of smiles.