Have you ever heard the old wives tale about losing a tooth for every child? It is easy to dismiss this as just folklore, especially given the improved level of dental care over the past few decades, but now it seems as if there might be more than a grain of truth in this old saying.
Larger Families Could Be Associated with a Higher Risk of Tooth Loss
A large-scale European study has linked tooth loss with larger families, finding women with three children had an average of four fewer teeth compared to women with just two kids. While having a third child seems to be associated with a higher risk of tooth loss for women, researchers discovered it didn’t seem to affect the father’s oral health.
Why These Findings Should Perhaps Be Taken with a Grain of Salt
Despite these findings, researchers urge caution, acknowledging that they only analyzed relatively small numbers of people and there is also the possibility of other factors coming into play. However, researchers do think it’s worth moms to be considering the value of preventative dental care that is specifically tailored for pregnant women.
What We Do Know about Pregnancy and Its Effect on Oral Health
Most women, upon learning that they are pregnant will begin to think about the effects on their body and the hormonal changes brought about by pregnancy. However, these hormonal changes can greatly impact dental health. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with it will help to protect your dental health. This is enormously important because good oral health will help to protect your unborn baby. One change is the effects of higher levels of hormones on your gums, a condition known as pregnancy gingivitis.
What Is Pregnancy Gingivitis?
As hormone levels increase, so does the sensitivity of your gums to disease-causing bacteria found in dental plaque which is a sticky biofilm that builds up over your tooth surfaces each day. The bacteria in dental plaque are responsible for causing gum disease which is an infection that gradually destroys gum tissue and which without treatment can lead to tooth loss.
In pregnant women, increased sensitivity of your gum tissue to plaque means your gums are more likely to bleed, especially when you brush and floss. At the same time, your gums may look red and more swollen than before, and they could feel slightly tender if you lightly press your gums.
Pregnancy gingivitis can be more serious in women who already have the gum disease signs and it’s just one reason why you need to see your dentist regularly during your pregnancy. They can assess your risk of pregnancy gingivitis and will provide the most suitable treatment options.
How Is Pregnancy Gingivitis Treated?
Your dentist can assess the general health of your gums and your potential risk of developing pregnancy gingivitis. If they think your risk is higher, they may recommend more frequent professional cleanings because this helps to remove the buildup of disease-causing bacteria in the form of calculus or tartar on your teeth.
Tartar can quickly build up when bacteria in dental plaque are not thoroughly removed through regular brushing and flossing. It’s often quite hard to ensure you remove all dental plaque, which is why everybody benefits from regular professional cleanings, normally every six months for people with reasonable dental health. Regularly removing the bacteria in tartar helps to keep your gums strong and healthy so there is less chance of your more sensitive gums becoming irritated and inflamed during pregnancy.
If you already have signs of gum disease than your dentist may recommend other treatments to help minimize the effects of this disease. It’s extremely important to maintain strong and healthy gums during pregnancy because gum disease has been linked to low birthweight babies and to premature births in some clinical studies. Pregnancy can affect your gums in another way, causing what are called pregnancy tumors.
Why You Don’t Need to Be Scared about Pregnancy Tumors on Your Gums
The very word tumor can be pretty scary but pregnancy tumors that develop on your gums are completely benign. They are simply little growth that can occur during the second trimester, which will vanish naturally after your baby is born. If these little growths irritate you, cause discomfort or make it difficult to look after your teeth, then your dentist can always remove them.
Another way in which your dentist can help you is by offering advice about other things that may affect you during pregnancy. For example, many women suffer from morning sickness which can occur at any time of day, not just mornings!
Minimizing the Effect of Morning Sickness on Your Dental Health
Morning sickness can be a pretty unpleasant part of pregnancy, exposing your teeth to strong stomach acids. These acids can increase the risk of tooth erosion and the risk is increased if you happen to suffer from heartburn or acid reflux during pregnancy. Ideally, after being sick it’s best just to rinse your mouth with plain water and to wait a short while before brushing.
Another technique is to dissolve baking soda in a cup of water and use that to rinse your mouth before you brush your teeth. Baking soda helps to neutralize strong acids, reducing the damage to your teeth. It’s useful to carry a small dental kit with you so you can freshen up wherever you are after being sick. Pack a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, a bottle of water and baking soda if you’re trying that technique, and you might want to include a small bottle of travel mouthwash.
Visit Your Dentist as Soon as You Know You’re Pregnant
Ideally, you should visit your dentist for a checkup before trying to conceive, but of course, this isn’t always practical. Otherwise, book a checkup and cleaning as soon as you know you’re pregnant. Let your dentist know you are expecting so they can adjust any treatment prescribed accordingly. Many routine dental procedures are still perfectly safe during pregnancy and you can rest assured your dentist won’t do anything to put your baby at risk.
It’s extremely important to continue having regular dental care during your pregnancy as this will help ensure you and your unborn child remain safe and healthy. With proper professional dental care, you can make sure that old wives tale about losing a tooth for each child doesn’t come true.