Our bodies go through significant physical changes during pregnancy, beyond the baby bump. While you might be prepared for the morning sickness and the cravings, did you know that pregnancy can also affect your teeth and gums?
The old wives' tale that you lose a tooth for every child isn't true, but hormone changes can increase your risk of dental problems such as tooth decay and gum disease. The good news is that these can usually be kept at bay when you maintain good oral hygiene and keep up with your scheduled dental visits.
One of the changes that occurs in the body during pregnancy is the production of more hormones, including oestrogen and progesterone. While these help to prepare the body for pregnancy and breastfeeding, they can also have side-effects such as mood swings and nausea.
In terms of oral health, hormone changes can affect the way your body reacts to plaque – the layer of bacteria that can build up on the surfaces of teeth. This can increase your risk of developing problems such as tooth decay and gum disease, particularly in the second trimester.
Vomiting caused by morning sickness can also potentially damage your teeth if acidic vomit is allowed to remain on their surface. Rinsing your mouth soon after should remove most of the acid. Brushing your teeth too soon after vomiting is not recommended, however, as this may damage the weakened enamel.
If you have cravings for sugary or starchy snacks and drinks during your pregnancy, giving in to these may also increase your risk of dental problems. You can research healthy alternatives online or talk to your dentist about teeth-friendly snacks to try.
Most dental problems can be prevented by maintaining good oral hygiene. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing once a day, following a healthy diet, cutting down on sugar and avoiding smoking, which also increases gum disease risk. Women who already have good oral health and take good care of their teeth and gums are less likely to experience dental problems during pregnancy.
It's recommended that you make an appointment with your dentist before pregnancy, if possible, so they can give you a complete oral health assessment. If your dentist notices any signs of a problem, they may recommend treatments or changes to your hygiene routine. It's recommended that any outstanding dental treatments should be taken care of before pregnancy rather than during, unless these are needed urgently.
Food and drink rich in calcium and vitamin D can also help to protect your teeth during pregnancy, as well as provide nutrition to your developing child. Good sources of dietary calcium include milk, cheese and plain yoghurt, while cheese, eggs and fatty fish are high in vitamin D.
There is evidence that gum disease during pregnancy (pregnancy gingivitis) may be linked with issues such as premature birth and low birth weight. An estimated 18 percent of premature births are thought to be triggered by gum disease, and this can increase the risk of health problems for newborn infants.
Taking good care of your oral health before, during and after pregnancy is in the interests of you and your child.
If you want to see a dentist in Sydney for a check-up or just for some advice, talk to our friendly team at Sydney CBD Dental.
 Better Health Channel. Pregnancy and teeth [Online] 2006 [Updated February 2018, accessed September 2018] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/pregnancy-and-teeth
 Healthdirect. Getting pregnant [Online] 2017 [Accessed September 2018] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/getting-pregnant