The saying that “one tooth will be lost for every pregnancy” is just an old wives’ tale left over from a time that lacked basic oral hygiene—but there is a definite link between pregnancy and teeth. This is not because the baby draws calcium away from the mother’s teeth–it does so from the mother’s bones–but because of the surge in hormones that affects a pregnant woman’s entire body. To learn more about pregnancy and teeth, read below.
When your body becomes pregnant, it surges with hormones, particularly estrogen and progesterone. These hormones exaggerate the way gum tissues react to plaque and can sometimes lead to what’s known as “pregnancy gingivitis”. This simply means that, as with regular gingivitis, the gums will be more red, swollen, tender, and likely to bleed. Pregnancy gingivitis affects most pregnant woman at some point, and generally surfaces as early as the second month. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease.
Pregnant women are also at risk for developing pregnancy tumors, or non-cancerous growths that develop when the gums are swollen and irritated. Generally, pregnancy tumors can be left alone, as they will shrink after the baby’s birth—but be sure to consult with a dentist before deciding to ignore the issue. If the tumor interferes with chewing, brushing, or other oral hygiene practices, your dentist may decide to remove it.
It is very important to prevent dental disease during pregnancy, not only because it is detrimental to the mother’s health, but because excessive bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the gums and affect the baby. Though your teeth may be the last thing on your mind during the first few weeks of your pregnancy, it is a good idea to schedule a dentist appointment so that your teeth can be thoroughly cleaned and your dentist can map out a plan for the next 9 months. In general, you should plan a visit for each trimester of your pregnancy so that your dentist can monitor any changes and gauge the effectiveness of your oral hygiene routine. In between appointments, Vitamin C and B12 supplements can help keep your oral cavity healthy and strong.
Women with dental emergencies which cause severe pain can be treated during any trimester, but you should consult your obstetrician prior to any procedure which will require anesthesia or medication. X-Rays should only be taken in absolute emergencies. The best time to have an emergency dental procedure while pregnant is during the 4th, 5th, or 6th month. However, it is generally best to wait until the baby is born before undergoing any significant dental procedure.