What happens and how to treat them right

Pregnancy affects your teeth in a number of ways, from the hormonal changes in the body to the changes in lifestyle that pregnancy brings with it. But there’s nothing to worry about once you know the processes and are equipped to handle them. In this article we’ll walk you through the main changes to your dental state during pregnancy, and what actions you can take now to ensure your teeth stay safe.

In brief: what’s going on and how to deal with it.

There are three main things that impact in your dental status during pregnancy:

  • Hormonal changes can contribute to an increased build-up of biofilm. If this is left unaddressed, it can lead to dental plaque and tooth decay.
  • Food cravings can lead to chemical offsets in your mouth, especially if you start drinking sugary drinks or drinks rich in acids, like juices or sodas. These offsets can make your enamel more vulnerable to bacteria and mechanical damage.
  • Morning sickness severely affects the chemical balance in your mouth, but cleaning your teeth straight away can be even more harmful.

If addressed early on, all these effects can be reversed. All you need to do is adopt a strict regimen of oral care. This should also be the case outside pregnancy, but during pregnancy it is absolutely crucial to follow the proper brushing rituals. Read more to learn about the common oral health issues during pregnancy and the proper ways to handle them.

Increased bacterial build-up

Our mouths are naturally populated by bacteria that live and breed on our teeth. It’s a natural process, and over the millennia our bodies have learned to resist these bacteria and keep them to a harmless minimum. For example, our saliva has mild antibacterial effects, and as long as we stick to low-sugar solid foods, there is enough natural mechanical action to clean the bacteria off our teeth.

However, a modern person’s diet is not optimal in terms of human evolution. The foods are softer, and richer in sugar, which gives the bacteria more chance to breed. As it breeds, it creates a biofilm – a sort of bacterial colony that lives and grows stronger on our teeth.

This is why, in modern day, it is so important for us to brush: we have to break up the biofilm, disrupt the bacterial connections, and wash them off our teeth. If we don’t do that, the bacterial colonies grow stronger, create acidic waste and weaken our enamel and gums.

During pregnancy, the chemical composition of saliva, hormonal changes and other factors can affect how bacteria develop in your mouth. Under certain conditions, bacteria can breed faster.

This is why it is highly recommended to stick to your brushing rituals twice a day. It can be tiring at times, and sometimes you think ‘Well, nothing bad is going to happen overnight.’ But every time you let the bacteria do their work overnight, your enamel will be damaged a little, and that ‘little’ accumulates over time.

During the day, your teeth accumulate a certain amount of bacteria that needs to be cleaned out.

If left uncleaned before you go to bed, this residue strengthens during the night and produces severe toxic waste on your enamel.

Regular brushing and tooth care rituals minimise the general build-up of bacteria.

Take care of your teeth at least twice a day for best results.

Morning sickness and food cravings

During morning sickness, your mouth and teeth are exposed to digestion-related acids that can influence the chemical composition of your enamel.

The same goes for the acidic products that a mother can crave during pregnancy: like flavoured soda drinks and juices, especially orange, grapefruit and other citrus-based drinks.

Many juices and most soft drinks also contain acids. After such drinks, you can feel that your teeth are a little rough. This is the effect of your teeth being literally washed in mild acid (often – phosphoric acid). It’s a tiny amount, but it’s enough to impact your enamel’s protective properties for a short time.

Acids in themselves are nothing to be afraid of. Food and drink makers are required by law to use only safe ingredients. It’s what we do to our teeth right after we eat that is important.

High-acid foods

  • lemons, limes, pomegranates, grapefruits, oranges, tangerines, apples, peaches, pineapples and their respective juices
  • blue plums, grapes
  • blueberries
  • tomatoes
  • most flavoured sodas, including zero-calorie drinks (look at contents for acids)

Neutral or low-acid foods

  • nuts and seeds
  • corn, soy beans, miso, tofu
  • yogurt and milk (unsweetened)
  • mushrooms
  • beans and lentils, broccoli
  • beets, potatoes
  • whole grains
  • herbal teas
  • fats like olive oil and avocados

For about 30 minutes after you’ve had episodes of morning sickness, or after you’ve eaten something very sugary or acidic, it is not recommended to brush your teeth. In these 30 minutes, your teeth are especially vulnerable to any mechanical damage. After 30 minutes, if you want to brush your teeth, feel free to do so.

If you are troubled by unpleasant smells or tastes in your mouth, rinse your mouth with warm water. But avoid brushing in the first 30 minutes. That way, you will keep your enamel stronger, for longer.

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The perfect brushing ritual during pregnancy

For best results, take care of your teeth and gums twice a day: in the morning and before you go to bed.

  • Check your toothpaste: it needs to have low-abrasive properties and strong protective properties. Avoid active whitening toothpastes, they tend to weaken the enamel.
  • With a soft brush, gently and thoroughly brush your teeth, front and back.
  • With a specialised precision brush, reach to your molars (back teeth) and make sure you clean the spots near the gums. Use soft, gentle motions.
  • Using interdental brushes, clean each interdental space with an in-and-out motion.

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Talk to your dentist

Oral care is part of your general healthcare, and it is important to examine your dental status in the context of your general health and well-being. If during pregnancy you experience unusual dental symptoms like bleeding or inflammation, make sure you schedule an appointment with your dentist.

In most cases, these symptoms are the results of improper oral care, such as when someone regularly skips their evening brushing or uses a mouthwash in the morning instead of proper brushing. However, in rare cases, this can be a cause of more serious issues that need to be addressed.

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