Expectant Mothers: What You Need to Know About Your Teeth During Pregnancy, Part 2Apr 06 2018

The following are common causes of dental health problems during pregnancy and what you can do about them.

Gum problems

Because of the hormones associated with pregnancy, some women experience increased susceptibility to gum problems like:

  • gingivitis (gum inflammation) – this is more likely to occur during the second trimester. Symptoms include swelling of the gums and bleeding, particularly during brushing and when flossing between teeth.
  • undiagnosed or untreated periodontal disease – pregnancy may worsen this chronic gum infection, which is caused by untreated gingivitis and can lead to tooth loss.
  • pregnancy epulis or pyogenic granuloma – a localized enlargement of the gum, which can bleed easily. This may require additional professional cleaning, and rarely excision.

It is important to note that gum problems that occur during pregnancy are not due to increased plaque, but to an impeded response to plaque as a result of increased hormone levels.

Some things that will help are telling your dentist early on about any gum problems that you might have.  Also, switching to a softer toothbrush and brushing your teeth regularly will reduce the build-up of plaque. Using toothpaste that contains fluoride (if you're not already doing so) will help strengthen your teeth against decay.

Lastly, have your gums checked by a dentist after you give birth, especially if you have problems during pregnancy.  Even though most of these issues resolve, some women actually develop a more severe gum disease that will need further treatment.


In addition to causing problems with gums, pregnancy hormones also soften the ring of muscle that keeps food inside the stomach, causing the nausea often referred to as morning sickness. When that happens, vomiting may occur, which can coat your teeth with strong stomach acids. Repeated gastric reflux and vomiting has the potential to damage tooth enamel and in turn, can increase the risk of tooth decay.

Some suggestions include avoiding brushing your teeth immediately after vomiting since the teeth are covered in stomach acids.  Because this can soften the enamel, even if only temporarily, the bristles of the brush can scratch and cause other damage to the teeth.  Rinsing your mouth thoroughly with plain tap water can help to minimize the time that the acid stays on your teeth.  Also, swishing with a fluoridated mouthwash can further protect your teeth.  If a fluoridated mouthwash is not available, you can also put a dab of fluoridated toothpaste on your finger and smear it over your teeth, rinsing thoroughly with water afterward.  Wait at least an hour after vomiting before brushing.

Retching due to toothbrushing

Sometimes pregnant women find it difficult to brush their teeth, especially their molars, because it causes them to retch.  Of course, you must continue to brush.  So what should you do?  One suggestion is to use a brush with a small head.  Even if you have to use a toothbrush made for toddlers, it will be worth it.  Next, slow down your brushing action.  Taking your time while brushing your teeth will relax the urge to gag.  Speaking of relaxing, try closing your eyes and concentrating on your breathing.  You can also try other distractions, such as listening to music.  See if it helps to switch toothpaste brands.  Or if that doesn't do the trick, you can always switch to water followed up with a fluoridated mouthwash.  As soon as your symptoms subside, go back to brushing with toothpaste.

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