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Congratulations! You’re expecting a little bundle of joy, and you’re understandably excited. However, you might not anticipate all the ways pregnancy can change your body.
Many women expect to gain a few pounds or develop a stretch mark or two. However, few realize the ways pregnancy affects your mouth. It’s crucial to take particularly good care of your oral hygiene during this time. Doing so protects you and your child’s health. Below are 5 unexpected ways pregnancy can affect your oral health.
1) Gingivitis and periodontal disease
When you’re pregnant, the hormones flooding your bloodstream cause a host of physiological changes. While you’ll delight in most, these changes hinder your body’s natural response to bacteria, making it easier for plaque to accumulate on your teeth. When it extends beyond the gum line, you can develop gingivitis, which can bloom into periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease can prove disastrous for both you and your unborn child. This condition causes your gums to recede, resulting in lost teeth. More frighteningly, the disorder can lead to premature birth. Babies with a birth weight of fewer than 5.5 pounds risk long-term health problems and developmental delays.
To prevent gingivitis, brush your teeth twice and floss once per day. You can use a water flosser if it feels more comfortable for you. Keep your regular dental checkups to ensure your hygienist can evaluate you for early signs and correct them.
2) Calcium deficiency
Many women develop calcium deficiencies during pregnancy. Your body is preparing to feed your baby, which means you begin producing milk. While the recommended daily intake remains the same, whether you nurse or not, you could experience problems lactating if you lack this vital mineral. Talk to your doctor about supplements if you don’t get enough calcium through diet alone.
Try to increase your intake of foods high in calcium. These include dark, leafy greens and broccoli. You can also find the mineral in tofu and tahini, as well as in soy and fortified rice or almond milk.
3) Dental caries
When you’re pregnant, you have a higher risk of caries or cavities. The hormonal changes that impact how your body reacts to bacteria apply to the surfaces of your teeth. These bacteria eat your enamel, resulting in small gaps or fissures. Your dentist can fill in small caries before they cause significant cracks or damage. If left untreated, cavities can cause your teeth to break. This condition is excruciating, and it often results in the loss of the tooth.
Additionally, many women experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, especially during the early stages. When you vomit, stomach acid comes in contact with your tooth enamel, decaying it more quickly — the more severe your morning sickness, the more devastating the impact on your pearly whites.
You might feel tempted to reach for your toothbrush immediately after getting sick. However, doing so will only damage your enamel further. Instead, rinse your teeth with a fluoride mouthwash and wait at least an hour before brushing. This action cleans away the yucky taste while slightly remineralizing your teeth.
4) Food cravings
You’ve probably noticed that your appetite has increased substantially since the plus sign appeared on the pregnancy test. This hunger is natural. However, the foods you crave could wreak havoc on your pearly whites.
Expectant mothers often crave high-calorie foods, and many of these are laden with sugar. This carbohydrate lays out a banquet table for oral bacteria, and if you can’t rinse your mouth, they will feast. Keep in mind that many cravings stem from nutritional insufficiencies.
Consider increasing your consumption of the following foods:
- Legumes – This plant family consists of peas and lentils, as well as chickpeas and beans. Most are rich in B vitamins, especially folate, a critical nutrient for developing infants. These foods also contain high amounts of calcium.
- Avocados – Avocados are nutritional powerhouses, so go ahead and treat yourself to that toast! The healthy fats help grow the skin and tissues of your fetus.
- Whole grains – Whole grains keep you fuller longer with their high fiber content. If you have an intolerance to gluten, try ancient grains like quinoa and amaranth.
- Berries – Berries are rich in antioxidants and fight free radicals in your body. They also tickle your sweet tooth without spiking your blood sugar, similar to the way candy bars can.
5) Increase in saliva
Your saliva production will increase due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, a condition called ptyalism. This upswing is both natural and beneficial. The increase in production helps rinse harmful bacteria from your teeth and gums. It generally begins during the first trimester, then tapers off as your pregnancy advances.
You don’t need to worry about this symptom unless it causes you psychological distress. If it does, consider chewing sugarless gum. You can also carry tissues or a hanky for wiping your mouth.
Keep your teeth healthy throughout your pregnancy
The key to keeping your mouth healthy throughout pregnancy is practicing smart oral hygiene and seeing your dentist regularly. These practices protect your pearly whites and the health of your unborn child.
Questions or comments about pregnancy and oral health? Leave them in the comments below!