Pregnancy is a beautiful time, and naturally, you’ll do everything to ensure a healthy 9 months. This includes getting proper prenatal care, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and even giving up a few habits (hellooooo, mocktails).
But while all of this is essential to your overall health during pregnancy, it’s also important that you don’t neglect your dental health.
One unexpected problem of pregnancy is tooth pain or sensitivity, but with good dental habits and a visit to your dentist, you can keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Most pregnant women anticipate some discomfort throughout their pregnancy.
Everyone has heard stories about awful morning sickness, and it’s no secret that pregnancy brings swollen feet, back pain, fatigue, and brain fog. (Thank goodness the baby at the end of this journey is so worth it.)
But when it comes to teeth pain or sensitivity, this pregnancy problem can catch you off guard. Yet, dental issues during pregnancy are more common than some people realize.
The body goes through many changes during pregnancy — you can thank hormonal shifts for this. The same way an increase in estrogen and progesterone may be responsible for symptoms like vomiting and nausea, these changes can also make you vulnerable to dental plaque.
This buildup of plaque can be the root cause of bleeding gums and inflammation, a condition known as pregnancy gingivitis. It affects up to
And depending on the severity of pregnancy gingivitis, you may develop periodontal disease. This is a serious gum infection that destroys the bones supporting your teeth, leading to tooth loss.
Some women also develop pregnancy tumors, also caused by too much plaque. Don’t worry — these sound scary, but they’re noncancerous growths on the gums.
Of course, cancerous or not, this overgrowth of tissues (which often occurs during the second trimester) can cause tenderness and pain, making it difficult to eat or drink. The good news is that these tumors usually disappear after giving birth.
As if these possibilities weren’t enough, pregnancy can also change your appetite, and it’s totally normal to crave certain foods. The problem is, you’re not likely to crave healthy foods.
If you’re constantly reaching for sugary or high-carbohydrate snacks to satisfy cravings, there’s the risk of tooth decay, resulting in cavities.
And if you have the unfortunate pleasure of living with acid reflux or morning sickness, frequent vomiting or stomach acid in your mouth can slowly damage your tooth enamel, triggering tooth sensitivity.
Whether you have a toothache, tender gums, or sores, mouth pain doesn’t have to be a killjoy.
First and foremost: See your dentist
If you have tooth pain that doesn’t go away, don’t suffer silently. See your dentist right away, and don’t forget to mention that you’re pregnant.
It’s safe to have dental X-rays and certain dental procedures during pregnancy. But depending on how far along you are, your dentist may recommend delaying some treatments until at least the second trimester.
But since your baby’s vital organs are developed by the second trimester, there’s a lower risk of side effects when dentists delay certain procedures, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Keep up with your cleanings
To be clear, though, routine dental cleanings don’t harm your baby, so you can continue to schedule these cleanings as normal. In fact, getting your teeth cleaned may get rid of sensitivity caused by too much plaque.
A cleaning can treat pregnancy gingivitis, too. Because of the risk of gingivitis during pregnancy, your dentist may even recommend more frequent cleanings while pregnant — perhaps every 3 months as opposed to every 6 months.
Plaque removal can also ease discomfort from pregnancy tumors, the noncancerous overgrowths on your gums. Just know that the tumor might not go away until after delivery, and that’s OK.
Get more specific treatments as necessary
Sometimes, though, a tumor interferes with eating. If so, your dentist may consider removal, but you’ll need to wait until the second or third trimester. This procedure involves local anesthesia to numb the area around your gums.
If you develop periodontal disease during pregnancy and your dentist can’t save a loose tooth, extraction during the second trimester can stop pain and sensitivity.
You can then discuss tooth replacement options with your dentist such as a dental implant or fixed dental bridge — both are safe after the second trimester.
If your dentist postpones a dental treatment until the second trimester, there’s plenty you can do in the meantime to relieve pain at home. You can start by identifying foods and drinks that exacerbate sensitivity or pain.
Some women find that sensitivity increases when they eat hot foods or drink hot beverages, whereas others have sensitivity to cold drinks or cold foods. Mouthwashes containing alcohol could also worsen your pain.
Rinsing your mouth with warm, salty water might offer some relief from swelling and inflammation. Or, apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek to relieve inflammation.
Ask your doctor or dentist whether it’s safe to take an over-the-counter tooth antiseptic containing benzocaine or pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
With everything you’ll go through during pregnancy, physically speaking, you’ll want to minimize the likelihood of tooth pain. This starts with excellent oral hygiene habits, which are important due to the risk of developing dental problems. Here’s what you can do:
- Don’t skimp on dental care. You’ll be more tired and achy, so it might be easy to go to bed without brushing your teeth — don’t. Stick to a good routine. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day. Also, use a fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash to prevent cavities and strengthen your teeth.
- Drink water or rinse out your mouth after vomiting, if you have morning sickness. This helps remove stomach acid from teeth. Don’t immediately brush your teeth, though. This might seem odd, but the acidity level in your mouth increases after vomiting. Brushing can do more harm than good, so wait at least an hour after vomiting before brushing your teeth.
- Tell your dentist that you’re pregnant and see if you need more frequent cleanings. Also, speak with your health insurance provider. Some plans cover extra dental cleanings during pregnancy.
- Limit sugary foods and carbohydrates. Snack on healthy foods like raw vegetables, whole-wheat crackers, and fruit.
The good news is that dental issues arising during pregnancy are often short-lived and improve after giving birth — when your hormone levels return to normal.
You can’t control the changes your body undergoes during pregnancy, but you can control how well you take care of your teeth. Schedule regular dental cleanings during pregnancy and tell your dentist about any tooth pain.