Effects of pregnancy on the mouth
Pregnancy does not cause poor mouth health and damage to teeth. But changes in lifestyle, habits and body processes may increase your risk of dental problems during pregnancy.
Craving sweeter foods and drinks is common during pregnancy. But having too many sugary foods and drinks may increase your risk of developing tooth decay. Try to snack on low sugar foods such as fresh fruit, cheese, crackers, or plain yoghurt. When you eat sugary snacks or drinks, rinse your mouth with water after. Rinsing your mouth with tap water is best because it contains fluoride which protects teeth.
Snacking or grazing frequently during the day can increase your risk of tooth decay. Try to have your sweet treat with main meals instead of between these meals.
Healthy gums do not bleed. Gingivitis is a common type of gum disease. It is the body’s reaction to the bacteria that builds up on the teeth. The gums become inflamed and may be red, swollen and bleed easily. During pregnancy, changes in hormones can make the gums more sensitive to the bacteria in the mouth. This can make it easier for the gums to become more inflamed when the bacteria are not brushed away. Brush twice per day and clean between your teeth (with floss or other tools) every day helps to remove the bacteria from between the teeth and around the gums. If you are caring for your teeth and gums well but your gums continue to bleed, check with your dentist.
Severe gum disease, called periodontitis, can also impact your pregnancy. Periodontitis during pregnancy is associated with pre-term births, low birth weight babies and pre-eclampsia.
Vomiting and reflux
Vomiting and reflux are common during pregnancy. These actions can cause stomach acids to come up into the mouth. These acids are very strong and can damage the teeth. If the stomach acid covers the teeth too often, it can cause the surface of the teeth to wear away. This is called dental erosion or tooth erosion.
Below are some tips to protect your teeth if you are experiencing vomiting or reflux.
- Do not brush your teeth straight after vomiting or reflux.
- Wait one hour before brushing your teeth.
- While waiting to brush, have a drink of water, rub some toothpaste on your teeth using your finger or rinse your mouth with an alcohol-free mouthwash. It is safe to leave the toothpaste on the teeth as this will help to protect them for longer.
- 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.
Gagging while brushing your teeth
The back of your mouth may be sensitive to touch. This may make you gag when brushing your teeth. This can make it more difficult to clean your teeth, but it is important that you do not stop cleaning them.
Here are some tips if you are having trouble with gagging.
- Try using a toothbrush with a smaller head. You may even want to use a small children’s toothbrush.
- Focus on brushing your teeth. Close your eyes, breathe slowly through your nose, and use a very gentle, tooth brushing technique.
- If you set your gag reflex off, stop, and wait a little before finishing brushing.
- Wait to brush your teeth later in the morning if your morning sickness settles or subsides.
Soft tissue changes
It is not uncommon to get lumps and bumps in your mouth during pregnancy. It is important to speak to your dentist if you notice any changes in your mouth.
One example is a pyogenic granuloma. This is also called a pregnancy tumour. It is a red, lumpy growth that can develop in the mouth during pregnancy.
A pregnancy tumour on the top surface of the tongue.
Image courtesy of Dr Amanda Phoon Nguyen.