Pregnancy is a unique experience in a woman’s life. Women commonly face oral health problems during gestation. Studies show that links exist between poor oral health and low birth weight or premature birth. As pregnancy is associated with compromised oral health due to hormonal effects, expectant mothers should be warned that poor oral health during pregnancy can adversely affect the health of their infant. On the other hand, promotion of good oral health, will benefit both the woman and her fetus.
Protect your Teeth During Pregnancy
Brisbane Dentist Dr. Ellie Nadian believes that pregnant woman should receive specific information for the management of changes in their oral health conditions during pregnancy. Women should continue thorough tooth-brushing and use inter-dental cleaning devices (floss) with additional care, she says, but additional dental check-ups and regular visits are required for women who are planning for pregnancy.
In the first few months of pregnancy, a woman may experience nausea and vomiting. During pregnancy, tooth-brushing also can bring on a vomiting response. Vomiting may contribute to tooth erosion and lead to permanent tooth sensitivity. The surface of the tooth is covered by a hard and protective layer called the enamel of the tooth. Repeated acid attacks demineralize the enamel and can damage the protective layer of the tooth.
To control the erosion, avoid brushing immediately after vomiting. Dissolve one teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and rinse the mouth to avoid tooth enamel erosion, she adds.
Tooth Sensitivity in Pregnant Woman
Dentists can help patients to prevent tooth surface loss due to gastric reflux and acid-induced enamel erosion. If not managed, protective surfaces of the tooth may get damaged and the patient can experience tooth sensitivity because of dentine exposure. You should avoid tooth brushing directly after vomiting. Brushing directly after vomiting, exacerbates the erosion. Rinse using baking soda and water instead. The acids commonly affect the area behind the front teeth. Consult with your dentist to see if you benefit from using fluoride mouth rinse.
Neutralize Hormonal Effects
A woman, during the phase of pregnancy, undergoes a lot of hormonal changes in her body. Because of these changes, tooth and gum deterioration may be rapid during this period. Pregnancy can affect both general health and oral health of a woman. Oral health is particularly important prior to conception and during pregnancy. Pregnancy and dental health have mutual effects on one another.
Various pregnancy-induced growth factors such as a change in the physiological condition and female hormones, may increase the activity of bacteria in the oral cavity and increase risks to a pregnant woman’s oral health. Natsumi Fujiwara et al conducted a study on Japanese pregnant woman and reported that oral bacteria significantly increase in the early pregnancy period. Therefore, pregnancy, especially in the early periods, can promote the proliferation of bacteria in the oral cavity and facilitates a colonization of periodontal pathogens.
Proper oral hygiene during pregnancy can partially neutralize hormonal effect on oral tissues, according to recent studies. Researchers report that within the population of the pregnant woman under their study, women who had pre-term infants with a low birth weight had worse periodontal disease than women with full-term babies of a healthy birth weight.
Preventive Dental Care During Pregnancy
According to American guidelines on oral health during pregnancy and early childhood, preventive dental care should be provided as early in pregnancy as possible. Primary prevention includes measures to avoid infection, dental abscess and colonization of cariogenic S. mutans and sobrinus. Based on clinical research, this should be regarded as an important strategy for preventive oral care during pregnancy.
With proper guidance, care and supervision of dental professionals, these complications may be prevented or treated. Let’s learn about some of the essential dental complications during pregnancy.
1. Maternal Periodontitis & Adverse Pregnancy Outcome
Periodontal disease is a low-grade and chronic infection of periodontal tissues. Studies show a positive association between Maternal Periodontitis and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Maternal Periodontitis (Periodontal Complication) is also known as gum disease. This situation may worsen all throughout the pregnancy phase and it is one of the very common dental complications for the pregnant women.
Periodontal disease can lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes that include:
- pre-term low birth weight
- low birth weight
- preterm birth
- fetal growth restriction
Researchers from Harvard School of Dental Medicine Boston studied 1635 pregnant women for periodontitis and its relation to preterm birth. The study suggests that periodontitis is an independent risk factor for poor pregnancy outcome among some women. (independent risk factor is a term used in medical research. An independent risk factor has a significant contribution to an outcome).
*Source: Maternal periodontitis and adverse pregnancy outcomes, Pitiphat et al 2008
2. Pregnancy Gingivitis
Gingivitis is probably the most common oral manifestation of pregnancy. It is also dubbed as the inflammation of gums. For most woman, pregnancy gingivitis becomes apparent in the 2nd month of gestation and progresses to its peak in the 8th month. In the 9th month, it usually decreases to the same level of conditions experienced in the 2nd month of gestation.
Dentist Mt Gravatt: If you are pregnant, visit your dentist regularly. Your dentist will monitor the conditions and may professionally clean the tissues when required to manage pregnancy gingivitis. Gingivitis can lead to chronic situation, which is characterized by acute pain, inflammation and bleeding of gums as well. Gingivitis, if left untreated, can lead to chronic periodontal disorder.
3. Pyogenic Granuloma of Pregnancy
Pyogenic Granuloma is also known as pregnancy tumour and it is found primarily in the gingiva. Pregnancy tumours often regress resolve spontaneously after delivery. They are often caused due to proliferation of capillaries, blood vessels and inflammatory cells. PG normally presents as a localised inflammation of gums, but it can also occur in the lip or the tongue, etc. The colour can range from pink to deep-red or purple and in most cases, it does not require treatment.
Pregnancy tumour (Pyogenic Granuloma) is generally a benign growth/condition. Tooth-brushing may traumatize a pregnancy tumour and cause bleeding. You should consult with your dentist if you experience discomfort or excessive bleeding.
Cavities are one of the problems that women may face during the period of pregnancy. With more and more consumption of carbs, tooth decay is more prominent and predominant. Also, morning sickness and repeated vomiting, which is quite common during pregnancy, creates an acidic environment in the mouth that need to be managed properly. As explained above, repeated exposure to acids, can erode the enamel of the teeth and cause sensitivity or tooth decay.
Regular visiting your dentist helps with effective management of caries. Do not delay emergency dental treatments if your dentist recommends an urgent dental treatment. Proper dental treatment is required to avoid infections and other potential complications because of tooth decay.
5. Dry Mouth
Lack of Saliva or dry mouth is an unpleasant condition that may be experienced by women during the period of pregnancy. Dry mouth may lead to mouth sores, infection and tooth decay because bacteria seem to adhere to dry tissue easier than moist tissue. Drink enough water to keep your mouth hydrated and wash food particles away. Consult with your dentist to see if you might benefit from sugar-free chewing gums.
Dental care and oral health assessment is recommended before, during and after pregnancy. You can read more about dental care during pregnancy here.
Author: Dr Ellie Nadian (Pure Dentistry)
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