The importance of oral/dental health in your day to day life cannot be overstated. The basic process involved with oral health is brushing your teeth after meals or at least twice a day. But more dental care is emphasized, especially if you're expecting.
During pregnancy, women experience a number of changes in their body, which is as a result of hormonal changes. Oral health problems are one of these changes. In the US alone, 76% of pregnant women report suffering from dental health problems. Most of these issues are related to bleeding gums and toothache.
Surprisingly, 43% of women do not schedule a dental checkup during pregnancy and neither do they seek treatment. This choice could pose a risk to both the mother and child as hormonal changes may worsen the conditions. To emphasize, below are four reasons you should see a dentist during pregnancy.
1. Bleeding Gums or Pregnancy Gingivitis
"When you're pregnant, your body will experience numerous changes," says Dr Annie Castellano, a dentist at Samaritan Dental. "Some of which you will love, but most of which you will hate. One of the ones to hate is when your gums become sore and tender, turn red, and start bleeding when you brush your teeth", she said.
Bleeding gums or gingivitis are a common health problem that occurs between the second and eighth month of pregnancy. It can get severe in some women, resulting into extreme swelling and increased pain, or the serious case of periodontal disease.
When you experience these symptoms and have not recently been to the doctor, make a dental appointment as soon as you can.
And if you are afraid of treatment during pregnancy, fear not. Treatment for gingivitis in pregnant women is considered safe, like in most other dental treatments. It can also be controlled through guided oral hygiene from your dentist.
2. Increased Dental Erosion
Here is how dental erosion occurs in expecting mothers:
Pregnancy is associated with morning sickness. Severe morning sickness is associated with vomiting. Prolonged vomiting is linked with erosion of the enamel due to acidity levels after vomiting. And brushing your teeth immediately after vomiting, in efforts to feel better, only enhances the damage.
To avoid extreme enamel damage as a result of vomiting, you are advised to wait at least one hour before brushing your teeth. If the taste in your mouth becomes unbearable, rinse with water laced with baking soda to help reduce the acidity and make you feel better.
If your morning sickness routine includes vomiting, visit your dentist or dental hygienist for more information on how you can prevent dental erosion.
Enamel damage can also be as a result of pica - a disorder involved with increased consumption of foods and items with no nutritional value. So, if you don't have morning sickness but are constantly biting on ice, dirt, clay, soil, laundry starch and others, you too should schedule a dental checkup.
3. Pyogenic Granuloma or "pregnancy tumor"
Before you get all scared, this condition has nothing to do with cancer. It is a condition that is extremely and inaccurately named as it holds no life-threatening symptoms.
Pyogenic Granulomas are lesions that appear as small, red and round growths on the skin that can result into bleeding. In pregnant women, these lesions are witnessed on an individual's gums and are as a result of hormonal imbalance in the expecting mother.
Ordinarily, these growths are common on other skin surfaces such as the face, hands, eyelids, genitals and sometimes on the lips. Growing on gums is only common during pregnancy and appears in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
While normally very small, these pregnancy tumors are sometimes large and hemorrhagic, resulting in difficulty when chewing. Seek treatment early to avoid the discomfort of these lesions.
4. Dry Mouth
As the name suggests, dry mouth is a condition that occurs as a result of reduced saliva in the mouth. Also referred to as Xerostomia, the disease may also occur due to changes in the composition of saliva.
Ordinarily, everyone experiences a dry mouth every now and then, especially when one is anxious or under stress. You may also experience it as a side effect to medication you might be taking, dehydration and other illnesses. In such cases, the dryness in the mouth does not last.
But if the condition persists, this could be a sign that you are developing a serious oral health problem and require medical assistance. When this occurs, you'll probably experience difficulties in chewing, swallowing, and in extreme cases, speaking.
Dry mouth could also increase your risks of suffering other dental problems such as gum disease (or gingivitis), thrush and tooth decay.
With hormonal imbalance during pregnancy, chances of you suffering dry mouth are very high. So, when you start to experience the prolonged dryness, consult immediately with your dentist. The condition may be treated through a prescribed mouthwash or saliva-boosting medication.
If you're pregnant, you cannot afford to ignore your dental hygiene. Doing so may result to you suffering one or all of these four oral health conditions, which could have an impact on your child.
In fact, research shows that extreme cases of gum disease can lead to premature birth and low birth weight. So, make that dental appointment and manage your oral health. Your baby will thank you.