You, your pregnancy, and a healthy smile

With so much to prepare for and so much excitement about the new baby, pregnancy is a happy and busy time. But even with all that activity, it’s important — for you and the baby — to maintain a healthy smile.

That’s because pregnant women are more likely to develop gingivitis, cavities, and other oral health problems.

60% to 75% of pregnant women have gingivitis, an early form of gum disease. But fewer than half of South Dakota expectant moms visit the dentist to get their teeth cleaned.

Watch out for warning signs of gingivitis, which include red, swollen, sensitive, or bleeding gums. If you notice any issues, consult your dentist.

How pregnancy changes your oral health

No two pregnancies are the same. But most pregnant women will experience changes to their oral health from one or more of the following:

  • Hormone changes, particularly increases in estrogen and progesterone, greatly raise your risk for gingivitis. More research is needed to understand why these hormone changes can cause gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease.
  • Morning sickness can coat your teeth in strong stomach acids and weaken your tooth enamel. Occasionally using a toothbrush or the taste of toothpaste can also create nausea, which may make you less likely to brush.
  • Food cravings for sugary or acidic foods and carbohydrates like breads and pastas may increase the bacteria in your mouth. Exposure to sugar, carbs, and/or acidic foods can increase your risk of developing cavities.
  • Pregnancy myths, like a misconception that dental X-rays are dangerous to the baby, can make women less likely to visit the dentist.

Extra care can reduce your risk

Changes that occur during pregnancy may make it a little more challenging to care for your oral health. But you can counteract these changes and maintain a healthy smile with a little extra care:

  • Eat foods that support oral and overall health during pregnancy:
    • Milk, cheese, and yogurt provide calcium for strong teeth.
    • Eggs are a great source of vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium.
    • Sweet potatoes offer vitamin A to help you maintain healthy gums.
  • Try to limit sugary or acidic foods and drinks, and always wash them down with water when you do enjoy them.
  • Don’t hesitate to visit your dentist — scheduled cleanings, X-rays, and other routine dental procedures are considered safe during pregnancy. You should also consult your dentist if you show signs any oral health problems.
  • Maintain a daily oral health routine by brushing twice with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing.
    • Rinse your mouth thoroughly and wait at least 30 minutes to brush after morning sickness. This prevents stomach acid from damaging your enamel.
    • If brushing makes you nauseous, a short-term solution is to rinse your mouth out with a mixture of one teaspoon of baking soda and one cup of water. This will reduce the amount of acid in your mouth until you are able to brush again.

You’re helping your baby smile, too.

Your health and your baby’s well-being are intertwined, so it’s no surprise that caring for your teeth and gums during pregnancy supports a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Children of mothers with untreated cavities are more likely to have cavities.

A strong smile supports a healthy pregnancy

Watch out for sickness and cravings, keep up your oral health routine, and visit your dentist so you can greet your baby with a healthy, happy smile.

Be sure to check out this document for quick tips about maintaining good oral health during pregnancy.

For more information about oral health and pregnancy refer to this in-depth guide.