Being pregnant is undoubtedly one of the greatest joys of a woman’s life, but it sometimes comes with certain problems. Not only can the body be affected by the surging levels of sex hormones (namely progesterone and estrogen), but the oral cavity as well. To understand the relationship between the bodily changes and the effects along with the precautions to be taken, lets answer a few questions:

What happens during pregnancy?

  • The body starts to prepare for the developing fetus. The levels of sex hormones start increasing. These hormones increase blood supply to the body by causing the blood vessels to dilate.
  • These hormones increase bacteria in the mouth, especially Prevotella Intermedia, which causes gingivitis and periodontitis.

What can happen in the mouth during pregnancy?

  • Due to increased blood supply to the oral cavity, larger amounts of immune cells also travel to the site of hypervascular tissue. This in turn leads to a fight between the harmful bacteria and the useful blood cells; the byproducts are bacterial toxins and chemical mediators which are harmful for the oral tissues. If these substances destroy the soft tissues like gums, gingivitis (inflammation of gum tissue) takes place. This presents as an increase in gingival (gum) bleeding during brushing, sore mouth, frequent ulceration, and bad breath.
  • If bacteria affects the jaw bones, periodontitis (inflammation around tooth) occurs seen as receding gums, loose teeth, and more tooth area exposed. These effects are more common in the front teeth.
  • Sometimes a bluish to purplish red growth is present on the gums near the teeth and areas of food and plaque accumulation. This is called pyogenic granuloma.
  • Due to continued morning sickness and vomiting, the teeth are exposed to gastric acids that can lead to tooth surface erosions.
  • Late night cravings can encourage the female to have sugary food in the middle of the night which is usually not followed by brushing or mouth washing, leading to a higher risk of dental caries.

How can you care for your mouth during pregnancy?

  • Regularly visit your dentist twice a year.
  • Let your dentist know that you are pregnant.
  • Proper oral prophylaxis (dental cleaning) is the key to good oral health.
  • Brush twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste and use a mouthwash.
  • Drink fluoridated water for dental health of developing fetus.
  • Use OTC gum paints or analgesics for oral ulcers.
  • After vomiting, rinse mouth with a pinch of baking soda in half-cup water to clear the acids from the mouth.
  • Use a mouthwash after eating any late night snacks.
  • Regular oral hygiene procedures at home (including flossing) can lead to great results and prevention of plaque buildup.

These oral changes and presentations are not only common in pregnancy, but also occur during puberty, throughout the menstrual cycle, and during and after menopause. These changes can also occur in females taking oral contraceptive pills. Proper oral care and timely treatment can prevent a lot of dental and oral problems.

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