Pregnant woman receives a check-up

Pregnancy can be a demanding time for your body - that includes your teeth and gums.

While the old myth that "you lose a tooth for every child" simply isn't true, pregnancy can increase your risk of developing oral health problems such as tooth decay and gum disease.

By following good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist regularly, you can help lower the health risks for both you and your child.

Keep reading to find out more about some of the most common oral health issues when you're expecting. 

 

Can pregnancy cause dental pain?

Some women's teeth and gums may become more sensitive during pregnancy due to hormonal changes.

You can help prevent dental irritation by changing to a soft-bristled toothbrush and minimising food and drink that affect your tooth sensitivity. For many, this could include not eating or drinking foods that are very cold or very hot.

Visit your dentist, especially if your tooth pain persists, as you might have an oral health problem.

 

Can pregnancy affect my teeth?

Your teeth can be more susceptible to damage during pregnancy.

If you give in to sugar cravings, this will likely speed up the formation of plaque on your teeth, which can lead to cavities and tooth decay. These need to be treated by your dentist as soon as possible.

Vomiting due to morning sickness could make the enamel on the surface of your teeth more prone to damage. After vomiting, rinse your mouth with water only and avoid brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes.

 

Can pregnancy affect my gums?

The risk of periodontal (gum) disease can rise during pregnancy. This is because hormonal changes are likely to affect the blood flow to your gums and the way your teeth respond to plaque.

Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and is more likely to occur in the second trimester. If gingivitis isn't treated it can develop into periodontitis, which damages the jaw and can lead to tooth loss. Gum disease is also one of the known risk factors of mouth cancer2.

Swollen gums often become irritated and can trigger so-called ‘pregnancy tumours’. Generally, the tumours are benign and are likely to disappear on their own. But they may need to be removed by your dentist if they're causing discomfort or making it difficult to brush or eat1.

 

What warning signs should I look out for?

Oral health problems such as tooth decay and gum disease can have many common symptoms, including:

  • painful or sensitive teeth
  • pain when chewing
  • red, sore, swollen or bleeding gums
  • receding gums
  • bad breath (halitosis)

If you're following good oral hygiene and these symptoms persist, make an appointment with your dentist.

Can oral health problems affect my baby?

Research suggests there may be a link between gum disease in pregnant women and babies being born prematurely with low birth weight3. A low birth weight puts children at risk of a number of health problems.

 

How can I help prevent oral health problems while pregnant?

Practising good oral hygiene before, during and after your pregnancy will lower your risk of developing oral health issues. There are a few tips you should keep in mind.

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
  • Brush for at least two minutes using fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss between your teeth at least once daily.
  • Rinse your mouth after meals.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Minimise sugary and acidic food and drink as much as possible.
  • Quit smoking and don’t drink alcohol.

Read more about oral hygiene.

 

Should I see my dentist during pregnancy?

As well as visiting the dentist for your regular check-ups every six months, you should arrange an appointment before you plan to get pregnant or as soon as possible after you learn that you're pregnant.

Dental x-rays and some types of sedation and medication are often not recommended during pregnancy. If you think your teeth need dental work, this should ideally be done before you become pregnant or after you give birth. To find out more about pregnancy and x-rays, head to the Blue Room

Dental check-ups are also recommended in the second trimester and early in the third trimester.

 

Can I still have dental treatment while pregnant?

If you need emergency dental procedures during your pregnancy, your dentist can still perform these as long as they take the appropriate precautions.

Dental x-rays are typically only used in emergencies, and your baby needs to be shielded from the radiation. If your dental work requires anaesthesia or certain medications, you should consult with your doctor first.

 

Can I get braces while pregnant?

It's not advisable to start orthodontic treatment during pregnancy. This is because orthodontic treatment usually requires dental x-rays. Also, your mouth could be more prone to irritation while it gets used to the braces.

If you're already receiving orthodontic treatment, pregnancy shouldn’t have too much of an impact. However, be sure to disclose the pregnancy to your orthodontist or dentist so they’ll know to take necessary precautions during ongoing treatment.

 

Will there be any effects on my teeth after pregnancy?

It's still important that you visit the dentist for your regular check-ups after you give birth (even though your schedule may be a lot busier!). If you develop a cavity or oral health condition, this needs to be managed urgently.

Certain medications are not recommended if you're nursing (breastfeeding), so dental procedures that require these should only be used in emergencies.

 

When does my child need to visit the dentist?

Your child is likely to have all their primary teeth (milk teeth) by their second birthday, so it makes sense to schedule your child’s first dental appointment around that time. If you aren’t sure, just call your nearest Bupa Dental clinic - we’re always happy to advise on how to keep your family’s oral health in tip-top shape.

Find out what to expect on your child's first visit.

 

 

 

Sources

1 Australian Dental Association. Pregnancy. [Online] 2012 [Last updated May 2012, accessed Nov 2016] Available from: www.ada.org.au

2 Victorian Government. Better Health Channel: Mouth cancer [Online] 2012 [Last updated May 2012, accessed Nov 2016] Available from: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

3 Victorian Government. Better Health Channel: Pregnancy and teeth [Online] 2016 [Last updated Jun 2016, accessed Nov 2016] Available from: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au