Should I Visit the Dentist When Pregnant?
For most, pregnancy is an exciting experience. However, with all this excitement comes an array of questions based on what you should and should not do while pregnant. Some questions are easy to answer. For example, yes you should schedule prenatal appointments, and no you should not smoke while pregnant. Other questions may be harder to answer. One common question that many people wonder is whether they should visit the dentist while pregnant.
The fast answer to that question, is yes you should visit the dentist while pregnant. Pregnancy initiates a variety of changes to the body and these changes can affect your dental health. Not only that, but certain dental health issues have also been linked to pregnancy and delivery complications. Therefore, visiting your dentist is highly important to ensure your oral health is maintained.
To understand why visiting the dentist while pregnant is so important, we need to briefly look at the way pregnancy changes the body and how these changes affect your oral health. For starters, there is a spike in both estrogen and progesterone. In a single pregnancy, a woman produces more estrogen than she ever will in her non-pregnant lifetime. Progesterone levels are also unusually high during pregnancy. In addition to those two main hormones, several hormone levels, such as human chorionic gonadotropin (HGC), relaxin, oxytocin, and prolactin will also fluctuate during pregnancy. While these hormonal changes are ideal for pregnancy, they can unfortunately cause issues elsewhere in the body, for example your mouth.
Dental Problems During Pregnancy
Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can occur during pregnancy. It is highly common in pregnant women and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that pregnancy gingivitis affects as many as 60-75% of pregnant women. Gums affected by gingivitis are tender, inflamed, red, and bleed easily. If not treated, gingivitis can progress into an advanced form of gum disease known as periodontitis. Periodontitis has been associated with preterm birth and low birth weight, however the relationship between the two is still being researched.
Pregnant women are also at a higher risk of developing dental cavities. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that one out of every four pregnant women has at least one cavity. One reason for this is because morning sickness wears down the protective enamel. Another reason is that some women have pregnancy cravings for carbohydrates that contain sugars for bacteria to feed on. The combination of these two factors makes it much easier for dental cavities to develop. Like periodontitis, dental cavities can also negatively affect pregnancy. Although the correlation is still being studied, untreated tooth decay during pregnancy can cause gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, premature delivery, or intrauterine growth restriction.
While WebMD estimates that only about 10% of women are affected by pregnancy tumors, it is still an important topic when discussing dental care during pregnancy. Pregnancy tumors are non-cancerous, raspberry-shaped tumors that develop on the gums between teeth. Most cases develop during the second trimester as a result of excess dental plaque. They can be uncomfortable, but they will usually resolve themselves after pregnancy.
As you can see, visiting your dentist during pregnancy is highly important. Dental visits during pregnancy reduce your risk of developing dental issues, such as tooth decay or pregnancy gingivitis. Since these conditions have been linked to a variety of pregnancy and delivery complications, dental visits also help decrease the risk of these complications as well. Overall if you are expecting, expect to be visiting your local dentist’s office soon.
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