As a focus on women's oral health issues this year, we are looking at maintaining your teeth and gums at all phases of life, including oral health during pregnancy. If you're planning or already are pregnant, it's important to visit your dentist for regular check ups. Just like the rest of your body, your teeth, gums and mouth are affected by hormonal changes during pregnancy.
Things to look for:
- Your gums will be more sensitive and may bleed more easily, commonly known as "pregnancy gingivitis." Though it's often temporary, as are many other oral health issues during pregnancy, it can seriously weaken the tissues that hold your teeth in place and shouldn't be ignored. It's important to maintain brushing and flossing routines.
- You may also develop what's called "pregnancy tumours" (officially pyogenic granulomas), which are red lumpy lesions that appear along the gum line and between the teeth. Don’t worry - they're quite harmless, and usually go away once you've had your baby.
- Food cravings are usually a fact of life for many women during pregnancy. If you experience cravings for sweets, try to limit sugary snacks and choose healthier options such as fresh fruit with natural or Greek yoghurt.
- Morning sickness and vomiting can also affect your teeth as the acid can be very erosive, especially if you're experiencing symptoms multiple times a day. Don't be tempted to brush your teeth immediately as brushing within an hour of vomiting can cause more damage to your teeth by stripping away the enamel. Try rinsing your mouth with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda mixed into 1 cup of warm water, chew sugar-free gum or try eating acid-neutralising food such as milk or hard cheese.
- Dry mouth (xerostomia), which reduces the amount of saliva you produce, can be a problem since it plays a big role in keeping the bacteria that cause tooth decay in check. Gingivostomatitis is another condition that can affect some women - it's hard to miss, marked by shiny, pale to deep red gums that bleed easily. If you’re diagnosed with either condition, the good news is that they can be easily managed by your dentist.
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The effect these hormonal changes have on your oral health during pregnancy means your dentist should join your GP and obstetrician on your list of health professionals you consult regularly. Make regular visits to your dentist in the lead-up to, during and after your pregnancy a priority, contact our practice if you have any concerns with the conditions listed above.