Teeth During Pregnancy

Dear Dr. Ellie,

I am 13 weeks pregnant and I am concerned about my teeth during pregnancy. I have heard that I can have all sorts of problems with them. Is there anything I can do and what specifically do I need to watch out for?

Katherine, Boston

Dear Katherine,

In some cultures, it is thought that a pregnant mother’s teeth are harmed because calcium is taken out of the teeth to “feed” the growing baby but of course this does not normally happen.

However, pregnant women are at risk for several dental problems. In your last three months of pregnancy, saliva is no longer able to protect your teeth from acids, as it looses its neutralizing ability. (This returns after delivery).

The saliva problem then causes acids from “cavity forming” bacteria and foods to attack your teeth. Additionally, pregnant women often have a dry mouth, compounding the problem, because dry mouths become acidic quickly.

Add acid reflux (common during pregnancy), and the fact that pregnant women wake up in the middle of the night (a lot!) and will often drink juices, fruit tea, or flavored water and not properly clean their teeth each time and is no wonder that pregnancy seems to “cause” tooth problems.

Here are some ways to protect your teeth during pregnancy:

– Take Xylitol mints and gum to neutralize acids and protect teeth, often and after snacking.
– Avoid any gum or candy with sorbitol, since it can cause plaque to thicken.
– If short on time, it is better to protect your teeth with fluoride, rather than do a poor job of brushing.
– Drink milk or straight water at night when you wake up to avoid an acidic drink eating away at the teeth.

Congratulations and good luck with the pregnancy,

Dr. Ellie

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