A long time ago, many women might have dreaded having a baby because of the belief that the newborn could “steal” the mother’s calcium. It could then leave their teeth loose, making them more prone to both tooth decay and loss.
Obviously, this is an old wives’ tale. However, what is true is that many pregnant women could be at an increased risk of developing oral health problems.
How Pregnancy Can Change Oral Health
There’s a good reason women and health experts consider pregnancy a major life event: it changes many things in the body, for one. That includes dental health.
According to studies, moms-to-be may be susceptible to develop gum disease and other oral health issues for the following reasons:
1. Pregnant Women May Eat More Sugar
Contrary to popular belief, not all pregnant women will desire sugar. But many do not because of changes in their taste buds but because of nausea and vomiting.
The reason women experience morning sickness remains unclear. One report suggests that it could be because of hormone level changes. In particular, the amount of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) might rise significantly, particularly during the first trimester.
The sudden increase could eventually lead to muscles contracting and the intestines relaxing, triggering feelings of nausea and vomiting.
If a woman throws up much of her food, she could develop hypoglycemia, which is low glucose levels. To compensate, the body may force her to crave and eat sugar.
Too much carb, though, not only raises the risk of gestational diabetes but also worsens tooth decay. Sugar helps create a breeding ground for bacteria that can promote periodontal disease. When left untreated, the inflammation can damage the roots and enamel, so the tooth becomes weak.
2. Estrogen Levels Could Drop
Estrogen isn’t just a fertility hormone. It helps control inflammation and promotes the uptake of calcium, which then helps strengthen the bones. The latter is especially important for pregnant women who need incredible body support to carry a growing baby.
For this reason, estrogen levels tend to rise fast during pregnancy. However, as soon as the baby is out, it could drop to pre-pregnancy levels within 24 hours. The decline over time may weaken teeth already prone to loss.
3. Moms-to-Be May Avoid Dentists
It’s perfectly normal for future moms to think about their child’s health, but not all beliefs may be grounded on truth. A case in point: pregnant women cannot pursue any dental work. This could be because many procedures may require exposure to X-rays.
In reality, many pregnant women go through X-rays and other diagnostic processes. In fact, doctors believe that the risk of complications to the baby after exposure is extremely small, but the benefits outweigh the risks.
It’s the same thing with dental work. Many dental health providers believe that women should not avoid getting oral health help, especially if it’s already an emergency. Think, for example, a chipped tooth or a tooth inflammation. The latter may indicate bacteria that can lead to infection and other severe conditions, including sepsis.
However, the doctors agree that if the procedure is elective (or non-urgent), pregnant women can consider undergoing it after they have delivered. They may also choose to delay a visit right after their first trimester.
Waiting may also be beneficial when they have to go through more complicated procedures like implants. Dental implant costs depend on the number of teeth affected. However, it is essential to keep dentures steady and prevent further bone loss.
By scheduling it after childbirth, women can have more time to prepare for the surgery, expenses, and recovery. In the meantime, they may opt for more routine procedures like root canal or cleaning to delay the progress of tooth problems.
4. Proper Dental Health May Decrease During Pregnancy
Some dental experts believe that pregnancy can also change not only eating habits but also dental health routines. Pregnant women may brush and floss their teeth less frequently for two reasons.
The first is fatigue. The changes in hormone levels, the possible morning sickness, the constant visits to doctors, the various body changes, and the baby’s weight can all lead to exhaustion. The last thing a future mom wants is to brush their teeth regularly.
Another reason is changes in the gums. Because of hormones, among others, gums may feel tender. They are, therefore, more painful to brush.
The bottom line is dental health is vital at any point in one’s life, including pregnancy. Nevertheless, a pregnant woman needs to work closely with their dentist to ensure that exams and procedures will keep her and the baby safe.