Expectant mothers often feel hungry and will eat a lot during pregnancy, which means that sugar and other bits of food are more likely to stick between their teeth. Additionally, many pregnant mothers experience morning sickness and vomiting, which causes stomach acid and other bits of partly digested food to travel back up to the mouth and stick in the teeth, again causing tooth decay. At the same time, pregnant mothers have increased levels of the hormone progesterone, which affects many different tissues but especially the gums in the soft part of the mouth. Increased progesterone causes inflammation and easy bleeding in the gums, which can be painful for mothers and make them feel too scared to brush their teeth, which in turn becomes another cause of tooth decay.
Pregnant mothers should go and see a dentist regularly, because if problems like swollen gums or tooth decay are ignored, then these things may be too late to remedy during months 4-6 of the pregnancy (when it is still safe for mothers to undergo dental health checks and receive dental treatment). However, if a pregnant mother requires scaling or tooth extraction, which can cause heavy, dangerous and excessive bleeding, the dentist may postpone treatment until after delivery.
The dentist will decide on a case-by-case basis when major dental treatment is necessary. This is because the blood vessels in almost every organ of the body dilate during pregnancy to increase circulation, meaning that the gums of a pregnant mother are packed full of blood. Expectant mothers may even experience bleeding gums just from brushing their teeth normally, so during pregnancy, the dentist will recommend gentle brushing using a brush with softer bristles.
Pregnant mothers should, therefore, book a consultation and start looking after their oral hygiene sooner rather than later. If necessary, you should also book an appointment with your dentist and let him know that you are pregnant. This is because, in cases where an X-ray may be necessary, the dentist will consider how much radiation is suitable for you and your pregnancy. You should also protect yourself during X-rays by using lead shielding equipment and make sure that you only use medication that is safe for pregnant women.
M.D., Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University, 1991