Women and Pregnancy

Most pregnant women recognize the important role their health plays in their baby's well-being, but many ignore a critical component - their oral health. Like the rest of your body, your mouth experiences changes during pregnancy that require the guidance of a health care professional.

When a woman becomes pregnant, there are drastic changes in her hormone levels. These changes can seriously affect a woman's dental hygiene. While having a healthy mouth is always important, pregnancy can intensify dental disease. Minor dental problems that exist before pregnancy could worsen. Oral infections can also present risks to an expectant mother's overall health, leading to other medical problems during pregnancy.

Here are some oral health conditions you may experience during your pregnancy:  

  • Around 80 percent of pregnant women experience morning sickness. This can affect your smile as the stomach acid erodes tooth enamel and can lead to decay. Rinsing your mouth out with baking soda and water afterwards can help neutralize the acid.
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make a woman’s gums react differently than normal to plaque, which can lead to gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. If gingivitis is left untreated, it could lead to bone loss around the teeth. Studies have suggested that pregnant women with moderate to severe gum disease may be more at risk to deliver pre-term or low birth weight babies. Prevent or minimize gingivitis during pregnancy with good brushing and flossing habits to remove plaque.
  • Pregnant women are at risk of developing pregnancy tumors which are benign growths that arise out of swollen gums. Normally, the treatment is to leave them alone until they break on their own. However, if they interfere with eating or oral hygiene, they may have to be surgically removed.

Read more about pregnancy and oral health.

A dental checkup in the first trimester allows an oral health professional to clean and examine your mouth, as well as identify any concerns that need to be addressed for your health and the health of your baby. Many Delta Dental of Illinois dental plans offer our Enhanced Benefits Program, which offers an additional cleaning for pregnant women. Review your plan for details.

Along with visiting the dentist, here are some tips to help prevent oral health complications during pregnancy:

  • Brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste and floss daily.
  • Limit foods containing sugar to mealtime only. If you do give into one of those cravings, drink a glass of water while snacking and brush your teeth once you're done.
  • Choose water or low-fat milk as a beverage and avoid carbonated beverages.
  • Choose fruit rather than fruit juice to meet the recommended daily fruit intake.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and nutrients.
  • Refrain from smoking throughout your pregnancy.

Most importantly, make sure that your dentist knows you are pregnant so that she or he can schedule dental work accordingly. If you need dental work beyond a routine cleaning and exam, it is safest to have it done during the second trimester, especially if it requires the use of a topical or local anesthetic. Talk to your dentist obstetrician if you have any concerns.