We see a lot of mothers reporting an increase in dental problems and cavities during and after their pregnancy. Many will ask us: “Does pregnancy cause cavities?” In fact, it’s been shown that 40% of pregnant women suffer from dental problems. It’s common to hear the old rumors “You lose a tooth for every baby” or “the baby took the calcium from my teeth” and while the science states that these are not true, there are some ways that pregnancy can affect your oral health and lead to cavities or gum disease.
Causes of Dental problems during Pregnancy
One of the main ways that teeth become damaged during pregnancy is through frequent vomiting during episodes of morning sickness. The acid from your stomach erodes the enamel on your teeth making cavities easier to progress. In this way, pregnancy can cause cavities.
We always advise that our patients rinse with a solution of 1 teaspoon of dissolved baking soda in one cup of water after vomiting and also wait 30 minutes before brushing teeth. If brushing occurs sooner than a half hour after vomiting, the softened enamel often gets brushed away.
Another way that pregnancy can lead to increased risk for cavities is through frequent snacking as a result of having cravings. It is also important for your teeth to choose snacks that are low in sugar (or any carbohydrates) such as vegetables, cheese, unsweetened yogurt or meat. Frequent exposure to carbohydrates is one of the highest risk factors for getting cavities.
It has been shown that the hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to xerostomia (dry mouth) which is a significant contributor to the formation of cavities (1). An expectant mother should be vigilant about frequently sipping water through the day to help protect her teeth.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy cause gum swelling and an increase in gum bleeding, also known as gingivitis.
Impact of the Mother’s Mouth on the Baby
It’s very important for expectant mothers to maintain optimal oral health during their pregnancy not only for their own health but also for their baby. The research between poor dental health and conditions such as preeclampsia, pre-term births and low birth-weight infants is still under investigation with conflicting findings. However, it has been shown that children born to mothers who have high levels of untreated cavities or tooth loss are 3x more likely to have childhood cavities (2).
Our office recommends the following to help keep your mouth healthy during pregnancy
keep your regular dental appointments. You can schedule with us here! Preventive (cleanings) or Emergency (tooth pain) is safe to treat during all times of pregnancy but dental fillings are best scheduled during your second trimester.
Brush at least 2x/day with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. Don’t forget before bed!
Drink primarily tap water every day. The city of Monroe adjusts its tap water fluoride to the optimal 0.7 mg/L shown to decrease cavities in a community. Unfortunately bottled water does not have this same benefit as the fluoride is filtered out during reverse osmosis. Avoid or limit sodas, juice, “energy drinks” and other sweet or carbonated beverages.
The National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center published an excellent resource guide to prevent oral health problems during pregnancy and to protect the dental health of your new bundle of joy. See it linked here!
If you have any questions on this topic we hope you’ll leave them in the comments below. If you have any thoughts or questions that you would like us to answer with a new blog post, please leave your thoughts here.
1. Steinberg BJ. Women’s oral health issues. J Dent Educ 1999;63(3):271-5.
2. Dye BA, Vargas CM, Lee JJ, Magder L, Tinanoff N. Assessing the Relationship Between Children’s Oral Health Status and That of Their Mothers. J Am Dent Assoc. 2011;142(2), 173-183. doi:10.14219/jada.archive.2011.0061