Being pregnant can have an impact on the health of your teeth and gums. Good oral hygiene and dental care during pregnancy is obviously important for your teeth and gums.
Less obviously, this care can also be important for helping the health of your baby.
Dental Care During Pregnancy: Common Myths
There are many common myths and misconceptions when it comes to the teeth and dental care during pregnancy. These include that being pregnant will:
- Inevitably result in damage to your teeth and gums.
- Result in calcium loss from the teeth.
- Result in ‘a tooth loss for every baby’.
These are myths! They are not based on fact. If you care for your teeth and gums, being pregnant will not cause lasting damage to your mouth. Your baby is also at less risk of having problems if your mouth is kept clean and healthy while you are expecting.
Dental Care During Pregnancy: “What are the Risks?”
The point made above is that damage to your dental health while expecting is not inevitable. However there are specific risks to your dental health during pregnancy, especially if you do not look after your teeth and gums.
These risks include:
- Gum disease (pregnancy gingivitis).
- Changes you make to your diet and oral hygiene while pregnant.
- Tooth erosion (due to vomiting associated with morning sickness).
- Pregnancy ‘tumor’ of the gums.
Changes to Your Diet and Oral Hygiene
Priorities and therefore your routine may change during pregnancy. This may be to the detriment of your oral health. Any reduction in oral hygiene or increased snacking, especially on sugary foods, will have a negative impact. For example:
- Not brushing due to nausea from morning sickness.
- Increased snacking on sugary foods. For example a late night snack without brushing your teeth before sleeping, which can result in your teeth being under attack from plaque acids for hours.
It is these changes to normal routine and diet, and not ‘calcium deficiency’ that can cause a lot of damage to the teeth during pregnancy.
With severe morning sickness, frequent episodes of vomiting over a prolonged period can result in damage to the teeth. Acidic damage of the teeth is termed dental erosion. It is caused by the highly acidic stomach fluids attacking the teeth and wearing them down.
To limit any possible dental damage:
- Rinse your mouth with water (or a good mouthwash) or drink milk after vomiting.
- Do not brush your teeth for at least half an hour after vomiting. Otherwise you will cause more damage to the softened teeth.
- Attend your dentist for specific advice.
See the dental erosion section for more helpful advice on prevention in particular.
Changes to Saliva Flow
Saliva flow can decrease in many women during pregnancy. A reduction in saliva can lead to dry mouth. This irritating problem can lead to tooth and gum problems, as normal saliva flow helps protect your mouth.
If you do suffer from dry mouth while pregnant, to reduce harm to your teeth and gums:
- Use fluoride mouthwashes.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Sugar-free chewing gum can stimulate saliva flow.
- Maintain good oral hygiene.
Maintaining Your Dental Health During Pregnancy: Summary Advice
The most important advice is to continue a good routine of oral hygiene and limiting sugary snacks (just as you should do when not pregnant!). This routine should include:
- Brush twice daily using fluoride toothpaste.
- Clean between the teeth with floss or inter-dental brushes.
- Use a mouthwash after brushing. Your dentist may advise you to avoid an alcohol-containing rinse while pregnant, although the need for this caution is debatable.
- Regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings.
- Limit sugary intake and the amount of snacks between meals.
It is important to note that it is usually a deviation from the above and not simply the effects of being pregnant that does the most damage to your teeth. It is a myth that your teeth soften while you are pregnant or that your body ‘takes calcium from your teeth’ to nourish your baby.
If you do suffer from morning sickness, rinse out your mouth after vomiting and brush your teeth twice a day when you are most able to.
Try to stick to main meals and limit snacks between. If you do snack, rinse out your mouth afterwards to limit the plaque acid attack on your teeth.
See our section on oral hygiene for lots more advice on how best to keep your mouth clean and fresh.
Diet-wise; eat a healthy, well- balanced diet as advised by your midwife. Include:
- Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Calcium and iron. Sufficient calcium is important for healthy tooth development in your baby. This will come from dietary sources such as dairy products, and not from your own teeth!!
A note here on smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy. As well as the well documented dangers to your baby from cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, these can also have an adverse effect on your baby’s teeth.
These can lead to an underweight baby. An underweight baby is more likely to have ‘soft’ teeth due to the enamel not forming strongly. It is not just the baby teeth that may be affected, as some of the adult teeth begin forming while still in the womb.
You may wish to read our page on bleeding gums during pregnancy for advice on this particular problem.
Alternatively, you can read our advice on attending the dentist and dental work while pregnant.