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Pregnancy and oral health, Part I

By Staff | Sep 11, 2014

There are two common myths about the effects of pregnancy on your teeth: you lose a tooth for every pregnancy you have, and if you don’t get enough calcium during your pregnancy, your body takes it from your teeth.

Neither one is true.

However, tooth decay and gum disease are still concerns during pregnancy. That’s because pregnancy – and the changing hormone levels that occur with it – can exacerbate some dental problems.

Taking good care of your mouth is important – not just for your own sake, but also for the fetus. Research suggests that gum disease, called “periodontitis,” is linked to premature birth and low birth weight.

It’s tooth decay – not pregnancy – that can cause tooth loss. The decay process begins with plaque, the sticky layer of harmful bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. If you snack on sugar-rich foods and beverages throughout the day, the bacteria use this sugar to produce damaging acids that attack tooth enamel and cause decay and tooth loss. Plaque that remains on your teeth can also irritate the gums.

Many women who previously had healthy teeth and gums may notice that their gums become swollen or bleed during pregnancy. This condition is called “pregnancy gingivitis.” It may appear as early as the first trimester and is the result of changing hormone levels, including increased amounts of progesterone.

An increase in hormones exaggerates the way gum tissues react to irritants in plaque. However, it’s the plaque, not the increased hormone levels, that causes the gum disease.

You can prevent gingivitis by keeping your teeth clean -especially around the gum line – and by getting more frequent cleanings during your second or early third trimester.

If you plan on becoming pregnant, schedule a dental checkup. Have your teeth cleaned and schedule any necessary treatment. This can help reduce the risk of having a dental emergency during your pregnancy.

Next week’s column will cover dental care during pregnancy, including safe use of drugs and x-rays, wise food choices, and simple steps for a healthy mouth.

Dr. Bhatia has completed two full years of specialty training in orthodontics after obtaining her degrees in pediatric dentistry and general dentistry. Orthodontics is not part of what we do – it’s all that we do!

“We build kindness… one smile at a time.” As always, Dr. Bhatia is happy to answer any additional questions. Send them to her at Kihei Orthodontics, 1280 S. Kihei Road, Suite 206, or visit www.kiheiorthodonticsmaui.com.