Pregnant women and nursing mothers should pay extra attention to their smiles’ health because the consequences can be severe.
Motherhood is an amazing journey. However, this lifestyle change can come with a change to your dental health too. Changing estrogen and progesterone levels can affect a woman’s teeth and gums. The pressure of pregnancy and nursing can cause their own potential issues. If you are a new or expectant mother, please let our dentists know right away so we can look out for potential problems:
Dry Mouth and Dental Decay
Breastfeeding is vital for an infant's development. However, the nutrients and hydration a mother's milk provides can lead nursing mothers to develop chronic dry mouth. Saliva plays a crucial role in protecting our smile's from bacteria and plaque. It helps with breaking down food and washing them away. The longer these cavity bugs stay on the enamel, the more time they have to eat through it and infect your inner tooth.
Pregnant women are also in danger of developing cavities. Acids in bile from morning sickness can begin to wear away at the tooth's enamel quickly. As the tooth's protective surface weakens, it becomes all too easy for bacteria and decay to work their way through what's left and create a cavity.
To keep your smile healthy, you should keep an eye out for:
White, brown, or dark spots on your tooth
Visible hole in your enamel
Toothache, which may be incredibly painful or come and go
Sensitivity to hot and cold or sweet foods
Unpleasant taste in your mouth
What Will Happen If A Cavity Is Left Untreated?
Once a cavity forms, there's no going back for your tooth. A cavity is a physical hole caused by tooth decay breaking through your enamel, exposing the softer layers below. Excellent brushing or fluoride toothpaste can't reverse the damage. Instead, the decayed parts of your tooth must be removed before the tooth is filled and restored.
Without professional treatment, decay will move from the enamel to the dentin, and from the dentin to the central dental pulp. The pulp contains the vital nerves and blood vessels keeping the tooth alive. As your cavity eats its way through this layer to the bottom of the tooth’s root, it can be incredibly painful and put your tooth’s life at risk. As more of the pulp is destroyed, the infection can pool into the surrounding gum tissue and form a pus-filled abscess.
After an abscess forms, your toothache may disappear. If this happens, see your dentist immediately as your tooth may be in danger of dying. Too much pulp and nerve cells have been injured, and your tooth has lost all sensation. Without an immediate root canal, your dentist may even need to extract the tooth.
Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease
Surging hormones like estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy often change how a woman's mouth reacts to plaque, oral bacteria, and infection. Without attentive dental hygiene, it can be all too easy for gingivitis and gum disease to form. Between 60 to 70% of pregnant women develop gingivitis during months two through eight of their gestation period. Your dentist may suggest seeing your hygienist more often for routine dental cleaning and deep cleaning visits to prevent this.
What Are Some Of The Early Warning Signs Of Periodontal Disease?
Gingivitis can be easy to miss, with many patients not knowing they have it until their gum disease becomes much more painful and severe. At this first stage of periodontal disease, plaque and bacteria have only inflamed and irritated the gums, leading to relatively minor symptoms that can be overlooked:
Red or purple gums
Painful, swollen gums
Gums that are tender to the touch
Easily bleeding gums, especially when brushing or flossing
Persistent bad breath
However, if periodontal disease worsens, it will cause permanent damage to the gums, bones, and connective ligaments holding your teeth secure. This “periodontitis” stage can come with these additional symptoms:
Worsening gum recession
Pain when chewing or biting down
Pus between teeth and gums
Change in bite and gaps appearing between teeth
Does Gingivitis Go Away?
Pregnancy gingivitis, unlike most forms of gum disease, can go away on its own. As it’s caused by increased hormones running through your system, your gums will be able to fight off infection normally once your pregnancy ends. Pregnant women should make sure to brush their teeth twice a day, floss daily, and see their dentist regularly to ensure their smiles can return to normal.
However, for women who already had gum disease before pregnancy, their gingivitis can become periodontitis. As gums recede, they separate from the gums and form deep pockets between them. These pockets give food particles, bacteria, and plaque access to your submerged tooth root, speeding up your smile's deterioration. Over time, the gums, connective ligaments, and underlying bone are destroyed, and your teeth no longer have the support base necessary to stay secure.
Periodontitis can’t be cured, only managed with professional treatment:
Gum flap surgery
At its worst, unchecked periodontitis can lead to eventual tooth loss. However, our dentists in South Pasadena may need to extract your teeth before that point if the structure holding them in place is too destroyed.
As fun and exciting as new motherhood can be, it also comes with its pressures and stresses. Pregnant women's growing baby bump put additional pressure on their bodies, from their stomach to their faces and necks. Once the baby is born, their position when breastfeeding can cause a similar strain on a nursing mom's body. Both of these situations can cause many women to begin clenching their jaws and grinding their teeth, especially at night.
This tooth grinding and clenching, known as bruxism, often come with these often painful problems:
Cracks and Chips
Cracks and chips in teeth are the most common bruxism complication. These fractures and breaks can be only aesthetic, with any damage going no deeper than the enamel layer. Usually, this can be fixed with simple cosmetic procedures, like bonding or veneers. However, if the damage extends further into the tooth, more extensive treatment like a crown or root canal may be necessary.
Tooth Decay and Cavities
Although a crack may look small and relatively harmless, you may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg. Thin fractures can reach deep into your tooth, giving a perfect track for bacteria and decay to follow without needing to wear away your tooth’s enamel defenses. To prevent this, we recommend seeing your dentist for an examination.
Even without noticeable damage, any additional pressure to your teeth can cause unusual wear and tear, flattening them. Over time, this can weaken the enamel and leave your inner tooth more exposed, which can be painful.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)
TMD is a disorder where the joint connecting your lower jaw to your skull becomes misaligned or damaged. Besides jaw soreness and pain, it can come with symptoms like recurring ear and headaches, pain when chewing, and jaw clicking or popping. At its worst, your jaw can lock into place, making it challenging or impossible to chew properly or open your mouth.
Your grinding and clenching can put pressure on the periodontal ligaments holding your teeth steady. If these ligaments are stretched, they can give your teeth some wiggle room. The teeth may even become so loose that they fall out!
With muscles straining, joints moving out of place, and teeth painfully braking, bruxism often makes it difficult to get a full night’s sleep. A lack of sleep only puts more strain and pressure on your body and mind. IIn some cases, clicking, popping, and cracking can be so loud it even wakes your partner up!
In many cases, we can manage your bruxism with a nighttime mouthguard. This dental device prevents your teeth from coming into contact and causing unchecked damage to each other and the rest of your smile.
Some pregnant women find that their teeth become loose and start wiggling even without the risks of nighttime grinding and periodontal disease. Although this might seem frightening, you don’t have to worry about your teeth falling out. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can sometimes loosen teeth’s supporting ligaments, causing teeth to become unmoored.
Will Loose Teeth Tighten Back Up?
Without any additional dental health problems at work, your dental ligaments will tighten up once the baby is born and your estrogen and progesterone levels fall. However, you should always see your dentist at the first sign of your teeth becoming mobile, even if you don't think it's serious. While pregnancy-caused looseness is only temporary, there are multiple reasons your teeth might loosen during this time. Periodontal disease is especially dangerous as it can cause permanent damage as it continues to spread throughout your mouth or even infect the rest of your body.