How Oral Health Changes During Pregnancy Affect Your Baby

Jun 20, 2021

At Stellar Kids Dentistry in Mukilteo, Mill Creek, and Everett, Washington, our team of pediatric dentists is dedicated to creating beautiful smiles before your little one even arrives. That means ensuring that your oral health remains strong during pregnancy. This special time in your life is full of changes that affect your entire body — including your smile.

How does pregnancy affect your teeth?

Pregnancy leads to a number of physical and emotional developments. It’s highly common to experience thicker hair, longer nails, acne, and even increased body hair during pregnancy. These seemingly sudden changes are primarily the result of elevated levels of estrogen and progesterone. Pregnancy hormones can also affect your teeth in many different ways.

Some common ways in which pregnancy affects your teeth include:

Periodontal disease (gum disease)

Increased hormone levels raise your risk of developing gum disease during pregnancy. This infection of the gums occurs due to a buildup of plaque — a sticky type of bacteria that clings to the teeth and gums. Once plaque penetrates beneath your gum line, it releases toxins that eat away at your tooth-supporting bone and tissue.

Without treatment, periodontal disease can even lead to receding gums and tooth loss in pregnant women, so it’s important to seek care at the first sign of trouble.

Sensitive teeth

Morning sickness is particularly common during the first trimester of pregnancy. If you’re repeatedly vomiting from morning sickness, stomach acid can eat away at your tooth enamel and make your teeth more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. Enamel loss leaves your teeth vulnerable to pain, cavities, and more.

Tooth decay

Pregnancy sparks an inflammatory response in the body that increases the amount of dental plaque and bacteria in your mouth. In addition, pregnancy cravings often gravitate toward sugary snacks and carbohydrates, which also escalate plaque production and cause cavities.

Loose teeth

The hormones produced during pregnancy can weaken the bones and ligaments in your mouth, which may slightly loosen your teeth. Fortunately, this is typically temporary and does not lead to tooth loss.

Dental problems that can affect fetal development

While it’s uncommon for a pregnant mother to pass dental problems on to her unborn child, it does happen. Women with advanced gum disease are more likely to give birth prematurely than those with good oral health. This can increase a baby’s risk of:

  • Brain damage
  • Poor eyesight
  • Hearing problems
  • Low birth weight

The best way to protect your baby from serious health concerns is to take care of your oral hygiene first.

How to protect your teeth during pregnancy

The dental changes that pregnancy causes can feel nerve-wracking, but there are plenty of steps you can take to protect your oral health,  including:

  • Schedule a teeth cleaning and dental exam every six months
  • Brush and floss twice a day
  • Limit sugary foods and beverages
  • Invest in fluoride toothpaste
  • Rinse your mouth with saltwater

For more tips on caring for your teeth during pregnancy, or to book a checkup for your little one, call Stellar Kids Dentistry or schedule an appointment online!