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Wellness Wednesday: oral health risks during pregnancy

Posted at 7:57 AM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 09:57:15-04

IDAHO — If you're expecting or hoping to expand your family, there are some important issues to be aware of when it comes to oral health during pregnancy.

Dr. Alice Zeigler from North End Dental says women actually face increased oral health risks during pregnancy.

"Many women are at increased risk of cavities during pregnancy, and also, many women experience a condition called pregnancy gingivitis," says Dr. Zeigler. "With that, women will experience puffy, swollen gums, their gums may bleed more than they usually do, and the CDC estimates that 65 to 75% [of women] experience this."

Much like gum disease, if it goes untreated, the bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream, spreading to the rest of the body and potentially harming the baby.

Dr. Zeigler says no matter how well you're doing keeping up with your oral hygiene, every woman and every pregnancy is different, and there are several factors that could cause you to deal with these issues.

"During pregnancy, women's hormones are fluctuating all the time. There's a lot of change. These hormones are what direct our body to react to things so even in women who have excellent oral hygiene, if they brush and floss every day, their body is going to respond to things in their mouth differently than it would normally."

Other actions that could lead to oral health issues: morning sickness and increased eating.

"Women will frequently experience morning sickness where they're nauseous. This is going to make their mouth more acidic and the bacteria that cause cavities love acid. They thrive in an acidic environment so they're going to be more prone to cavities.

Dr. Zeigler says women typically eat more during pregnancy, and if their cravings include having a sweet tooth, cavities could become more frequent.

So how can you avoid or ease these issues during your pregnancy?

"First, you want to make sure that you're taking good care of your mouth at home, that you're brushing twice a day, flossing every day. Even if your gums are bleeding when you brush and floss, you want to continue to do that," explains Dr. Zeigler.

Dr. Zeigler says you can also brush with an anti-gingivitis toothpaste and remember to drink plenty of water with and between meals or snacks.

It's also important to keep up with your usual checkups and cleanings, something that is safe to do even during the pandemic. Many dentists and their teams have been vaccinated and are continuing to wear personal protective equipment.

For more on oral health during pregnancy and all the safety measures being taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.