It’s tough to think of a part of me that wasn’t affected in some way by pregnancy. And it’s all down to those pesky hormones. Though I like to think I was quite well informed about how pregnancy could affect me, I wasn’t prepared for its effect on my teeth and gums.
Not long before I fell pregnant with Alex, I had a check-up at the dentist and everything was fine. Then, in my first trimester, I noticed that my gums were bleeding a little bit. I mentioned it to my midwife and got the usual answer. Hormones!
So, I carried on with my usual brushing routine. I did floss, but not as often as I should. Towards the end of my pregnancy, my gums were quite sore so I used a medicated mouthwash and it seemed to help. To be honest, I was having such a difficult pregnancy in other ways that I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have.
A few months after Alex was born, I went back to the dentist for a check-up and got quite a telling off about not looking after my teeth during pregnancy. Not only did I have mild gum disease, but I also needed three fillings. I was mortified.
How do hormones affect your oral health?
When you’re pregnant, you’re producing huge amounts of hormones, These hormones also affect blood flow in your body, making your gums more prone to bleeding. Add to that the fact that you’re carrying up to 50% more blood in your system when you’re expecting and bleeding gums are common.
It’s not just pregnancy either. I’ve noticed that my gums bleed a little when my period is due.
Oral health when you’re pregnant is about more than avoiding a few fillings. Bleeding gums can lead to periodontal disease, which has been linked to poorer outcomes for mother and baby including premature birth, low birth weight and even miscarriage.
Tips on looking after your teeth during pregnancy
On my visit to the dentist for my fillings, I asked what I needed to do next time I was pregnant, to stop this from happening again. The dentist was very helpful and when I was pregnant with Ava, I followed his advice and was delighted when I was given the all-clear at my post-pregnancy check-up.
Here’s what worked for me.
Keep up with your appointments
It’s good to have a healthy mouth before you get pregnant. I appreciate that not all pregnancies are planned but by keeping up with your regular appointments, your dentist is likely to have spotted any problems and fixed them by the time you’re pregnant.
Swap your toothbrush
Brushing swollen and sensitive gums with a firm toothbrush can cause more bleeding and irritation. Switch to a soft-bristled manual brush or get a special replacement head for your electric one. It may feel a little weird at first but your mouth will thank you for it.
Drink plenty of water
Water is great for relieving so many pregnancy symptoms and keeping your energy levels up. A lot of women find that they get a particularly dry mouth during pregnancy, and it’s saliva that helps to wash away food particles and acids that can attack your teeth.
Use sugar-free gum
Chewing sugar-free gum is also great for keeping your mouth clean after meals and stimulating saliva. I always had some in my handbag and still do today. This, along with the water should keep your mouth moist when pregnancy can make it feel dry.
Use mouthwash properly
I have always used mouthwash but I hadn’t realised I wasn’t using it properly. Usually, I just used it straight after brushing, but this actually washes away the fluoride from your toothpaste.
So, I switched to using a good antibacterial mouthwash an hour after I’d brushed.
It’s easy to ditch flossing when your gums are inflamed and prone to bleeding. I found that ordinary dental floss felt like I was basically sawing through my gums, so I switched to expanding dental floss, which is a lot more spongey and didn’t irritate my gums as much.
You probably expected me to mention diet in there. The truth is, it can be difficult to manage your diet during pregnancy if you’re having sweet cravings. I swear I thought Ava would be half-baby, half KitKat Chunky.
There’s a reason why we get free dental care for the duration of pregnancy and up to a year afterwards in the UK. That’s because it can have a huge effect on your oral health. Getting into good habits is the best thing you can do.