What are some common dental health problems during pregnancy?

Many pregnant women are afraid to go to the dentist because they've heard that x-rays may hurt their child.

While it is always a good idea to take no more x-rays than necessary (and particularly so during pregnancy), this does NOT mean that you cannot get necessary dental treatment. Generally it's a good idea to get your mouth in good condition before pregnancy. But if a problem occurs during pregnancy it's important to take care of it. 

Generally it's a good idea to restrict dental treatment to the second trimester, but if you need treatment, you get treated. A dental infection will not do your child any good either!

If there are any questions or particular circumstances of concern, you should have your dentist consult with your obstetrician to discuss your treatment.

I've had young mothers come in and tell me that their teeth "fell apart" after their pregnancy. Some moms have told me they hear that the unborn child "sucks calcium" out of the teeth. What has usually happened to these moms is that they avoid the dentist before the baby comes, and are too busy and exhausted after the baby to take care of themselves. By the time they make it back to the dentist, some big problems may have developed.

That's just one more reason why moms have to remember to take care of their medical and dental needs--before, during and after pregnancy.
Rita Medwid
During pregnancy, your gum tissue may bleed easily, and be reddened, irritated, or swollen, especially on the lower front teeth. You may be prone to more tooth decay especially at the gum line. This is due to the increase in bacteria caused by being too sore or just too tired to brush and floss. Also, the change in your eating habits, may increase the risk of decay. Drinking more acidic drinks, from sodas (diet or regular) to Gatorade or sports drinks will dissolve the hard surface of the tooth. Gastric reflux and vomiting will also erode the enamel and weaken the teeth.

After any of the above, chew sugar-free xylitol gum before you brush your teeth. If you brush immediately after acid is in your mouth (from drinks or reflux) you will be brushing the acid harder into the tooth causing more wear. Chewing Xylitol gum after your baby is born will help lower the bacterial count in your mouth so you will have less of a chance of inoculation or transferring your "cavity making bacteria" into your baby's mouth. Your baby is not born with this bacteria, but gets it from mom or dad. Also, keeping your gums flossed will help you have a healthy baby. Medical studies show mothers with gum disease are more prone to have a low-birth weight or premature baby. Talk this over with your dentist. We are here to help you and your baby. 
Many women notice that their gums become swollen, inflamed, or prone to bleeding during pregnancy. This condition is called "pregnancy gingivitis" and may appear as early as the first trimester.

You can prevent this by keeping your teeth clean. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings during your second or early third trimester to control gingivitis. If you notice any changes in your mouth during pregnancy, see your dentist.
Pregnancy is a very important time for women to be proactive and preventive about their dental health. Hormone changes often result in changes in the periodontal (gum) condition in the mouth. One common condition known as pregnancy gingivitis is a reversible inflammation of the gums, causing them to be more swollen or bleed more easily. It is important to recognize that this condition, if left untreated, can lead to more advanced gum disease or increased tooth decay as well. I often recommend that pregnant patients in my practice get their teeth cleaned a few times during their trimester terms. The safest time to receive dental treatment including dental cleanings is in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Of course, if you are planning to become pregnant, I recommend that a dental check-up and cleaning are done prior to  your pregnancy as well. Studies have shown that an unhealthy mouth can cause pregnancy problems such as preeclampsia (a dangerous hypertensive condition that affect mother and fetus) and premature low-weight birth (PLWB). 

Some common dental problems during pregnancy are oral lesions, dental caries (tooth decay), gingivitis, periodontitis and loose teeth. Less commonly, a  localised overgrowth of gum (called an epulis) may develop; it is not cancerous. This occurs because of changes in hormone levels.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.