Does pregnancy affect my teeth and gums?
Pregnancy is very hard on a woman’s teeth and gums. The gums can be quite sensitive to changes in hormone levels. Some women experience a phenomenon called Pregnancy Gingivitis in which the gums are red and puffy and bleed easily. Women may also experience Pregnancy Tumors on the gums. These are bulbous, red, raw-looking tissue growths or swellings between the teeth that tend to occur during the second trimester. Both of these conditions are typically monitored during the pregnancy and go away on their own following the baby’s birth.
Pregnancy can cause women to eat more frequently during the day and to have strong cravings, sometimes for foods high in sugar. This increased frequency of food intake means the pH in the mouth stays acidic for longer periods of time. This is particularly true in the case of high-sugar foods and snacks. Tooth decay starts more easily and progresses more quickly in an acidic environment because the acid softens the enamel of the tooth. Chewing sugarless or xylitol (xylitol is a sugar that kills cavity-causing bacteria) gum following meals helps stimulate saliva flow to buffer the acidity more quickly.
Pregnancy can also cause morning sickness for protracted periods of time. This exposes the teeth to stomach acid, which is extremely destructive to tooth enamel. Many women experience vomiting while getting ready for work, or at the workplace, which necessitates immediately brushing their teeth following vomiting. Ideally, you should rinse with a mixture of 1tsp baking soda in 8oz of water to neutralize the acid and then wait for 1 hour before brushing your teeth. This allows the compounds in your saliva to re-mineralize (or re-harden) the enamel before brushing.
It is also important to remember that tooth decay is a contagious disease. The bacteria that cause tooth decay are typically transferred from primary caregiver to the baby between the ages of 19 and 31 months. If the primary caregiver has active decay, they will have more bacteria and this transfer is likely to happen earlier, which puts your baby at higher risk for decay of baby and adult teeth.
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