the Australian Dental Association
Written by the Australian Dental Association, Oct 15, 2021
Fact Checked

The health of your mouth, including your teeth and gums, can impact your whole body health. Poor oral health during pregnancy can influence the health of your baby. Therefore, it is important that you maintain good dental health during this time.
 

Listen to the ADA's Watch Your Mouth podcast episode on oral health and pregnancy.

Before becoming pregnant

Similar to how you may have a general medical check-up when preparing to conceive a baby, it is important to also consider having a dental check-up and any necessary treatment to set you up to have good oral health whilst pregnant. This appointment also helps your dentist to know what your oral health was like prior to getting pregnant, to monitor if any changes occur when pregnant.

Being pregnant does not directly affect your teeth. It is factors that occur during pregnancy, such as being hungrier, more frequent snacking and/or morning sickness, that can cause damage to the teeth. These factors can increase your risk of developing tooth decay or tooth erosion.

Should I see my dentist while pregnant?

It is safe to undergo dental care whilst pregnant. Generally, the best time to see your dentist is during the second trimester. Your baby is quite well developed compared to in the first trimester and reclining in the dental chair may be more comfortable than in the third trimester.

If you have a toothache whilst pregnant, it is important to get this treated. Some elective dental treatments may be delayed until after you’ve had your baby, such as dental implants and teeth whitening.
 

Nutrition and cravings

It is well known that pregnancy can affect your appetite, such as the amount of food you eat, and you may even crave foods or drinks that you would not normally. When it comes to caring for your teeth, try to avoid grazing/repeatedly snacking on foods or sipping on drinks other than water throughout the day. Regularly snacking on sugary foods and drinks can increase your risk of developing tooth decay or tooth erosion.

How often you snack on sweet foods and drinks can cause greater damage to your teeth than the amount of food or drink you consume at each snack. If you would like to have a sugary snack, try to eat it in one sitting rather than repeatedly returning to the cupboard to grab some more or in combination with a main meal.

How morning sickness and reflux affect teeth

Morning sickness and reflux cause stomach acid to come up into the mouth. Stomach acid has a very low pH which makes it very acidic and this can cause damage to the teeth. If you experience morning sickness or reflux, it is recommended that you do not brush your teeth straight away. The stomach acid softens the tooth enamel which is the outside layer of the teeth. Brushing the teeth immediately after can cause the softened tooth enamel to be worn away. It is best to wait at least 60 minutes/1 hour before brushing your teeth.

While waiting 60 minutes to brush your teeth, you could try the following:

  • Drink or rinse your mouth with tap water. In most Australian communities, tap water has added fluoride to help to strengthen and protect our teeth.
  • Rinse your mouth with a fluoride-containing mouthwash. Not all mouthwashes contain fluoride so make sure to check the ingredients label when buying it in-store.
  • Eat unsweetened dairy foods such as hard cheese or drink plain milk which can neutralise and lessen the acid present in the mouth.
  • If you are out and about, chewing sugar-free gum is an option. This can help to increase your saliva production to help rinse the acids from the mouth.

Brushing and flossing

It is important to keep a good oral hygiene routine whilst pregnant. Remember to brush your teeth twice per day using fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental brushes. If you are having trouble accessing the back teeth whilst pregnant due to an overly sensitive gag reflex that is stopping you from caring for your teeth as you normally would, consider using a fluoride mouthwash. Using the mouthwash after brushing and flossing can assist you in caring for your mouth during this period.

Mouthwash should not be used as a regular replacement for brushing and flossing. Your dentist can provide recommendations on a mouthwash to use.

Gum health

Pregnancy can directly affect the health of your gums. Changes to your hormone levels during pregnancy can make your gums more sensitive to the bacteria present on the teeth. This can cause the gums to become inflamed where they can appear swollen and bleed more easily than if you were not pregnant.

Research has shown that severe gum disease (periodontal disease) is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as suffering from pre-eclampsia, giving birth prematurely, or giving birth to an underweight child.

A benign soft tissue growth called a pyogenic granuloma may develop during pregnancy. Most commonly it occurs in the second or third trimester and is often referred to as a ‘pregnancy tumour’. The lesion most commonly develops from the gum tissue between the teeth and is full of blood vessels making it bright red in colour. The growth may disappear on its own once you are no longer pregnant, alternately a dental professional can remove it.

Summary

A general dental check-up is recommended for women who are considering becoming pregnant. However, dental treatment is still safe during pregnancy. Pregnancy can impact oral health due to changes in hormones and eating habits as well as morning sickness and reflux can increase the risk of tooth erosion.