When you’re expecting, your teeth and gums may be the last thing on your mind. Between the changes happening in your body, and the changes you are anticipating in your life—you have bigger concerns than your teeth! Unfortunately, pregnancy can become a turbulent time for your oral health. Fluctuating hormones can affect how well the gums resist infection, and frequent vomiting can damage your enamel. Know what to expect and how to counteract potential problems before they happen.
Gum Disease and Pregnancy
Pregnancy hormones can make gum tissue more sensitive to stimuli, and normal flossing may cause redness, soreness, inflammation, and bleeding. When this happens, the intuitive response is to stop flossing for a day or two to give your gums some time to heal. However, that is the worst thing you can do; not flossing may allow bacteria to colonize the gum tissue and initiate the symptoms of gum disease.
Many women choose to switch to an alternative form of flossing during pregnancy. A water flosser or end-tufted brush can clean between the teeth and gums just as well as loose floss, and is less likely to irritate tender gums.
What You Can Do:
- Get an extra dental cleaning between six-month visits to prevent infected gums.
- Use an alternate form of flossing if your gums become sore.
- Do NOT stop flossing!
Nausea and Vomiting
During the first trimester especially, many women experience what is euphemistically referred to as “morning sickness.” If you find yourself frequently becoming nauseated, know that this does not harm your teeth, in itself. It’s the vomiting that sometimes follows the nausea that can damage your teeth. The presence of stomach acids in the mouth is extremely dangerous to tooth enamel. Even brief exposure during a single bout of vomiting can change your mouth environment for hours afterward.
Since a more acidic mouth environment can contribute to decay, women who suffer from frequent vomiting during pregnancy are at greater risk of developing cavities. Enamel erosion is also a possibility, which can leave your teeth feeling ragged and sharp.
What You Can Do:
- Do not brush your teeth immediately after vomiting. This will scrub the acids into your enamel and cause more harm.
- Rinse your mouth with milk or plain water after you vomit. Milk is better at neutralizing acids than plain water and will help bring the pH level back to neutral.
- Wait 30 minutes after vomiting before you brush your teeth.
- Use a fluoride rinse every day to counteract enamel demineralization.
Problems with Brushing? Change Your Oral Hygiene Tools
Some women find that their gag reflex is more easily stimulated during pregnancy. This can be a problem when your routine tooth-brushing turns into a struggle not to vomit. If you find brushing harder to handle at any point in your pregnancy, you should not continue to soldier on with the same tools you have always used, as you may wind up brushing less efficiently or vomiting as a result.
Switching your toothbrush and toothpaste may help you avoid stimulating the gag reflex and becoming nauseous. A smaller, child-sized toothbrush is equally capable of cleaning the teeth, and may be less likely to bother you. Similarly, a fluoride-containing children’s toothpaste may have a milder flavor and therefore will be less offensive than an overly minty adult toothpaste. Women who regularly use white toothpastes sometimes find clear gel pastes easier to tolerate during pregnancy.
Schedule a Pregnancy Oral Health Visit Today!
Dentists recommend that pregnant women schedule a visit in the first trimester to help prevent any potential problems. During this visit, Knoxville general dentist Dr. Ruth Bailey will explain how your overall bodily changes are affecting your mouth, look for any early signs of problems, give your teeth a good cleaning, and provide fluoride gel to keep your enamel strong.