Pregnancy is an exciting time filled with changes. Some changes you may expect, such as a growing tummy or sudden cravings for pickles and ice cream. Other changes, however, may catch you by surprise, such as increased risk of nose bleeds, hot flushes and constipation.
Although you feel you can handle most of these developments on your own without batting an eye, keep in mind that some physical shifts may require outside help to resolve. Your dental health, for example, may need assistance from your dentist to stay in good condition.
As your pregnancy progresses, keep a lookout for the following problems. With a few minor adjustments in your lifestyle and a little help from a professional, you can ensure your teeth and gums remain healthy throughout each trimester.
1. Morning Sickness Eats Away at Enamel
Statistics estimate that nearly 75% of women experience morning sickness during pregnancy. Although some women merely feel queasy for a few weeks, many unlucky mothers may have to run to the toilet several times a day when the morning sickness gets the best of them.
Unfortunately, vomiting regularly wreaks havoc on your teeth in addition to inhibiting your nutrient absorption. Typically, stomach acid has a pH level of about 1.5 to 3.5, more than enough to eat away at your enamel.
Talk to your doctor about your morning sickness. He or she may recommend a combination of vitamins and dietary changes to ease the nausea and give you some relief.
If you still face regular morning sickness during your first trimester, you can minimise the damage to your teeth by rinsing with water after you vomit. Then, wait for 60 minutes before brushing your teeth. When you brush immediately after heaving, the bristles push the acids deeper into the grooves of your teeth.
2. More Frequent Meals Increase Sugar Exposure
Many doctors recommend that pregnant women eat small meals throughout the day. Regular healthy snacks not only ensure the mother receives adequate nutrition, but these foods also keep blood sugar levels in check, minimising nausea and energy crashes.
However, the more often you graze, the more sugar you put into your mouth. The sugar feeds oral bacteria, which in turn produce acids that eat away at your enamel. Furthermore, the constant food intake means your mouth doesn't have enough time to restore its natural, neutral pH levels, so your teeth sit in a constant acid bath.
As you 'eat for two', remember that some snacks are better than others for you, your baby and your smile. When you pick and choose your meals, look for foods with low sugar and high fibre content.
Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, contain folic acid which will boost your baby's neural development. Additionally, these veggies supply a healthy amount of calcium that will maintain your teeth and bones.
Cheese and yoghurt are also excellent snacks during pregnancy. These dairy items have plenty of protein for your baby's growing muscles, iron for your red blood cells and calcium for your teeth. Better still, cheese and yoghurt temporarily increase your mouth's pH levels, reducing your risk for cavities.
3. Hormone Fluctuations Trigger Gum Inflammation
During pregnancy, your hormone levels go wild. Your progesterone production skyrockets, which then stimulates the prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins regulate the female reproductive system, and they affect how your body responds to injury and illness. In some cases, prostaglandins cause inflammation of blood vessels, resulting in sensitive gum tissues and swelling.
Due to hormone fluctuations, many pregnant women have an increased risk of suffering from gingivitis and gum disease. In extreme situations, the swelling leads to a benign growth known as a pregnancy tumour, which bleeds easily.
Although you can't control your hormones, you can take steps to reduce inflammation. Take care to floss every night, and always brush with a soft-bristled brush. Avoid trigger foods that make your teeth feel more sore and sensitive, such as hot tea or cold ice cream.
Talk to Your Dentist About Your Pregnancy
While pregnancy leads to a variety of changes, these changes don't have to negatively impact your oral health. If you haven't already done so, set up an appointment with your dentist to discuss your pregnancy and ways you can maintain your teeth and gums over the next few months.