Let’s pretend for a moment you’re a contestant on “The Family Feud” and your question is “Name something you lose as a result of having a child.” It’s a safe bet the number one answer would be “Sleep.” Other answers might include “Free time,” “Waistline,” and “Sanity” (there are always a few jokers with a cheeky response). Would you be surprised to see “Teeth” pop up on the board?
There’s a saying that goes “Gain a child, lose a tooth” and it’s been around for a long time. Potentially with good reason. Evidence does suggest that, for every child a woman has, her likelihood of experiencing some level of tooth loss goes up. This is especially true of women who have three or more children. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has even put out a list of common oral health conditions during pregnancy. What could be going on here?
One leading theory asserts that a developing embryo gets first priority when it comes to calcium, absorbing more of it from mom’s diet or leeching it from her body, which may take a toll on her teeth. How plausible is this theory? Well, most of the body’s calcium is found in the bones and teeth, and studies have found that pregnant women do experience bone mineral loss during pregnancy. However there’s no evidence to suggest that pregnancy results in a loss of calcium in the teeth.
Another theory proposes that increased hormone levels affect certain mouth chemical properties, leading to gingivitis--inflamed gums which, if left untreated, can contribute to tooth loss. This theory seems to have the most merit. Pair that with the unfortunate pregnancy side effect of vomiting and reflux that some women experience and you have an oral environment that can be highly acidic, wearing away tooth enamel and leading to decay.
While pregnancy, especially if you already have children, can be a busy--and exhausting!--time, don’t cut corners when it comes to caring for your teeth. Be sure to:
Brush twice a day
Floss once a day
Eat a healthy diet with plenty of calcium-rich foods
Rinse your mouth out with a mixture of baking soda and water after a bout of vomiting or reflux rather than immediately brushing your teeth, to protect your enamel
See your dentist for regular checkups
The good news is, these basics of oral care will take you a long way toward preventing gingivitis and maintaining a healthy smile throughout pregnancy and beyond. If you have a dentist you already see, make an appointment today. If you don’t have a dentist, we can help you find one.