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Pregnancy and Your Oral Health

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Updated March 30, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Pregnancy and Your Oral Health
Lora Dodge

When you're pregnant, you know how important it is to take special care of your body. However, you should also know that pregnancy is a time to take extra special care of your teeth and gums. That's because hormonal changes in your body during pregnancy can increase your chances of developing gum disease.

Make sure you practice good oral hygiene, which means brushing and flossing every day. By combining this routine with a healthy, balanced diet and regular dental visits, you will not only help avoid dental problems of your own, you will also contribute to the healthy development of your baby.

How Does Pregnancy Affect My Teeth and Gums?

Pregnancy causes hormonal fluctuations that increase your risk for gum disease. The changing hormone levels in your body can make your gums more sensitive to harmful plaque - the colorless, sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. Furthermore, if you already have signs of gum disease, being pregnant may make it worse. This is why it's vital to pay more careful attention to your daily brushing and flossing routine to keep plaque under control.

How Does Gum Disease Develop?

Plaque is one of the main causes of gum disease. If plaque is not removed, by daily brushing and flossing, it will accumulate on the teeth and below the gum line, which can lead to gingivitis - the first stage of gum disease. If ignored, gingivitis can progress to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis, in which the gums and bones that support your teeth and keep them in place are permanently damaged.

How Do I Know if I Have Gum Disease?

As many as 70% of women have some form of gum disease during pregnancy, so watch out for these warning signs:

  • Your gums are tender, swollen or red.

  • Your gums bleed when you brush or floss.

  • You can't get rid of bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.

If you think you might have gum disease, visit your dentist or hygienist right away for a professional cleaning and exam. If caught early enough, gum disease can usually be reversed or controlled.

Am I at Greater Risk for Tooth Decay?

In short - yes. Pregnancy increases your risk for cavities and caries due to a possible increase in sugary food consumption.

Should I Tell My Dentist That I Am Pregnant?

As soon as you believe you are pregnant, tell your dentist. It may not be safe to have X-rays during your pregnancy. You should also let your dentist know if you are trying to get pregnant: knowing this can help in planning X-rays or other treatments.

A Time to Be Healthy and Happy!

As a mother-to-be, what you do to take care of your health (including your diet) affects the development of your baby's teeth and gums. And as your body goes through a process of change, it is also important to pay particular attention to your own oral hygiene. Maintaining a good daily oral routine can help keep potential problems from developing.

Don't forget that this is a time in your life to enjoy the natural changes that take place in your body - so radiate health by keeping your smile bright!

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