There are vast numbers of old wives’ tales about pregnancy and teeth. And so, without any further ado, let us assert that pregnancy does NOT cause your teeth to go bad. This contradicts the tale that every pregnancy means the loss of a tooth. After the doctor has confirmed the happy event-to-be, the expectant mother (who often has a job as well as housework to do) is involved in a multitude of extra activities such as attending the ante-natal clinic, buying baby clothes, perhaps altering the home to accommodate baby.
It is therefore understandable that she may put off seeing the dentist about her teeth. With the arrival of baby she is more tied than before and it may be a year or two before the dentist is seen. Besides neglecting her own dental care she many succumb to the lure of sweets and other carbohydrate foods. In time , therefore, there may well be dental troubles, but they are not due to the pregnancy.
Two conditions can arise : dental decay, which can commonly occur in pregnancy around the parts of the teeth level with the gum, and gingivitis where the gums themselves become red and swollen and bleed easily.
Neither of these need arise if the following precautions are taken :
1. The dentist should be visited as early as possible in the first stage of pregnancy for a thorough examination so that all necessary treatment can be carried out well in advance. This is important, for later on the dentist may not have time to complete any necessary fillings and may have to put in temporary dressings. This may lead to problems later in pregnancy or even during confinement. The best and safest time for any extensive treatment is during the middle three months.
2. The doctor should advise a suitable diet pattern to protect the mother-to-be and also the developing child. The dentist will also discuss diet in relation to preserving the health of the teeth and gums and also to help develop sound teeth in the baby. In that respect the doctor should avoid, if at all possible, the prescribing of tetracycline antibiotics for expectant mothers and for infants, as they are likely to cause serious discolouration of the child’s teeth. Essentially the mother’s diet should include all the proteins, minerals and vitamins which the foetus needs. In order to meet the added needs of calcium and phosphorus for bone and tooth development, sufficient milk or milk products per day should be consumed. A recommended list would look something like this :
Proteins : Meat, eggs, fish and poultry.
Vegetables : Greens, cabbage, sprouts, etc., for Vitamin A and iron.
Citrus fruits : oranges, lemons, grapefruit.
It is important to reduce the amount of foods which contain sugars (sucrose) so as to control excess weight and to prevent dental decay.
The developing child does not remove calcium from the mother’s teeth. Any breakdown of the teeth is due to the usual causes, perhaps accentuated by the conditions above. But minerals such as calcium and phosphorus can be removed from the mother’s bones and the bone around the teeth. Thus the diet must contain sufficient of these minerals to prevent loss from the bones. There is still very little confirmed evidence that the addition of fluoride to the mother’s diet influences the formation of the teeth in the foetus.
Bleeding and swoolen Gums can be common during pregnancy. There are hormonal changes during this time, so that any neglect of the mouth leaving bacteria around the teeth might cause a mild inflammation which tends to be worse during pregnancy. However, if attention is paid to thorough cleansing of the teeth there is no likelihood of ‘pregnancy gingivitis’ occurring.
There may be some improvement in the gum condition after the birth of the child, but remember that the trouble was there before pregnancy and will not clear up completely until expert advice has been obtained. Sometimes a single enlargement of the gum occurs, perhaps related to one or two teeth. The lump bleeds easily and may interfere with eating. It has been called a pregnancy ‘tumour’. A similar condition may occur with those on the contraceptive pill, the effect of which is to mimic the pregnant state.
It is not really a tumour so there is no need to be seriously worried about it. The dentist can deal with it quite easily. He may decide, however, to delay treatment until after the birth of the baby But, it should be stressed again, it does not have to occur and will not in the scrupulously looked after mouth.
When people have bleeding gums they often allow the condition to worsen because they deliberately keep the toothbrush away from the part of the mouth where the gums bleed. Thus, because there is an accumulation of plaque the bleeding will get worse. If you take your soft brush firmly in your hand and brush away, especially in the area that bleeds, the gums will improve after a day or so.