Pregnancy requires particular attention to oral health
Poor oral health can be surprisingly dangerous to an unborn child. It is worth investing in dentist’s appointments if you are pregnant: it protects new life.
Many pregnant people do not realise how significant oral health is to their pregnancy. You should book an appointment with a dentist at the very beginning of your pregnancy or, preferably, when you are planning to become pregnant.
“It is widely known that parents should not place the baby’s pacifier in their mouth, but, unfortunately, it is not often the case that people understand the risks of poor oral health for pregnancy,” says Johanna Kukila, the Head Dentist of Hammas Mehiläinen Forum.
Oral bacteria enter the womb as well
Your teeth and gums may seem secondary when you pay attention to your belly during pregnancy. Nevertheless, the same circulatory system covers the entire body and carries bacteria all over the body from the mouth.
A particularly harmful condition to an unborn child is common gingivitis that develops into periodontitis, an inflammation that destroys the connective tissue fibres that fix the teeth to the bone.
Harmful pathogens may travel from the mouth to the womb through the circulatory system. Problems may also arise from low-grade inflammation in the body as a result of oral inflammation that activates the expectant mother’s immune system. This may lead to intrauterine inflammation or opening of the uterine cervix.
“In a worst case scenario, periodontitis can cause premature birth,” says Kukila.
Periodontitis is an insidious disease as it may lay asymptomatic for a long period. Even if there is no pain, periodontitis or its antecedent, gingivitis, may be present.
A University of Tampere dissertation shows that an inflammation caused by dental caries, i.e. cavities, can pose a significant risk factor for pregnancy if it advances. If a cavity is not filled early enough, the bacteria may enter the bone jaw through the tooth’s pulp chamber. Inflammation may lead to a shorter pregnancy than normal or a small sized baby.
Oral health has an effect on becoming pregnant
Pregnancy does not always begin as planned and there might not be a clear and obvious reason for this. An appointment with a dentist can be recommended to anyone planning to become pregnant since periodontitis not only poses a risk for the developing foetus, but it may also prevent you from becoming pregnant in the first place.
A University of Helsinki study shows that there was larger amounts of Porphyromonas gingivalis, a bacterium closely linked with periodontitis, in the saliva of women who failed to become pregnant despite their efforts in a monitoring period of one year. In some cases, the presence of the bacterium and its antibodies tripled the risk of infertility.
Morning sickness wears teeth down
Pregnancy has an effect on the entire body, including the mouth. As a result of hormonal activity, your saliva becomes more acidic and the resistance to plaque declines. The risk of cavities increases and gingivitis becomes more severe.
“It takes more effort than normal to keep your teeth and gums in good condition during pregnancy,” says Kukila.
Your teeth must be paid particularly close attention to if the pregnancy involves nausea and vomiting. Vomiting exposes the teeth to gastric acids. Gastric acids corrode the enamel that protects the teeth and thereby expose the dentine. As a result, the teeth are sensitive and caries develops easily.
“It is a good idea to rinse your mouth and eat a slice of cheese that neutralises the acids after vomiting. Chewing on nuts is also recommended as it stimulates the secretion of saliva. Saliva protects the teeth and acts as a buffer against the acids,” says Kukila.
Brushing your teeth immediately after vomiting is not recommended as it wears the enamel down that has already been exposed to acids.
Are you pregnant? Here’s how to look after your oral health:
- Book an appointment with a dentist to check that there are no cavities, gingivitis or periodontitis in your mouth.
- Book an appointment with a dental hygienist to remove any tartar that may cause gingivitis. Check with the dental hygienist to ensure that your brushing technique is correct and that you are able to clean your interdental spaces appropriately.
- Brush your teeth every morning and evening and clean the interdental spaces once a day.
- A healthy mouth can only endure five exposures to acids a day, but many people with morning sickness have to eat more often. Chewing on a piece of Xylitol gum or drop after eating protects your teeth.
- If pregnancy causes you to vomit, rinse your mouth after vomiting and neutralise the acids by eating a slice of cheese, for instance. Do not brush your teeth immediately after vomiting as this will cause further damage to the enamel.
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University of Tampere dissertation
European Federation of Periodontology