Every woman knows that becoming a mother is one of the biggest challenges they will ever face. There are so many adjustments involved. It’s enough to make any expecting or new mother’s head spin. From dealing with out-of-whack hormones and new aches & pains to getting prepared to care for someone who will be completely dependent on them, motherhood is a huge lifestyle change. However, as a woman enters motherhood, it’s critical that they learn to deal with these changes and new responsibilities. This is true even when it comes to a mother’s dental health. Yes, that’s right: pregnant women and new mothers have different dental needs, believe it or not. Failing to tend to these changes can set a mother up for some potential oral health complications.
Common Mother’s Dental Health Problems
The interesting thing about pregnancy is that women are more immune to certain health conditions to protect both themselves and their fetuses. However, the changes in hormones also make it to where pregnant women are more likely to develop certain oral health problems. A mother’s dental health is extra critical as it can impact not only the mother but also her fetus.
A condition known as pregnancy gingivitis is one of the things a pregnant woman might experience. During pregnancy, this condition often comes about due to the hormone progesterone creating excess acid in the mouth. Symptoms of this condition might include mild gum inflammation, redness on the gums, and gums that bleed when gently brushed. If this pregnancy condition is not tended to, eventually, one might develop a more serious gum condition called periodontitis. The worse the condition of the gums, the harder it will be to get the problem resolved. And, worse, the more likely an expecting mother will be to give birth to a premature, underweight baby as the increased acid in the mother’s mouth can eventually travel to the baby.
Gum problems are the only thing soon-to-be mothers need to look out for. A higher risk of cavities is also not uncommon among pregnant women. The increase of acids in the oral tract due to progesterone is normally the reason for this. The increase of acids due to a pregnant mother frequently vomiting is another potential cause. These acids break down the protective layer of the teeth, the enamel. This, in turn, makes the teeth more susceptible to rotting and/or loss. Cavities are bad for the pregnant woman as is. However, the bacteria due to the mother’s cavities can also travel to the fetus and set them up for an unhealthy start.
Breastfeeding and its Associations with Dental Problems
Not only do pregnant women have a higher risk of certain oral health conditions, but breastfeeding women do too. Breastfeeding babies also have an oral health risk (as well as an advantage). We’ll explain all this in a bit.
Women who are breastfeeding are at a higher risk of cavities and gum infections. This is due to the fact that women who breastfeed lose up to 5 percent of their bone mass. There’s a good reason for this: much of their calcium goes straight to their little one during feeding sessions. Losing too much calcium during breastfeeding, however, can leave women lacking in this essential mineral. As a result, their teeth (which require calcium) and gum health can begin to deteriorate.
It’s also said that women who breastfeed are more likely to grind their teeth as they often have more neck and shoulder tension during feedings. Not only that, but breastfeeding, let alone becoming a new mother, can be incredibly stressful and anxiety-provoking. In turn, mothers might unintentionally clench or grind their teeth. Tooth sensitivity, fractures, jaw pain, and wear on the teeth can occur due to tooth grinding or clenching.
Breastfeeding Also Has an Effect on Babies’ Oral Health
Not only can breastfeeding impact the oral health of breastfeeding mothers, but it can also impact breastfeeding babies. The vitamins and minerals in breastmilk are essential in helping keep babies’ teeth healthy. Research has also shown that infants who are breastfed are less likely to deal with tooth alignment problems in the future than children who weren’t breastfed or who were breastfed for just a short period of time.
Breastmilk and breastfeeding in general can have positive effects on babies like the latter. However, if mothers fail to keep their babies’ mouths clean after breastfeeding, this may lead to tooth decay. As many parents are aware, tooth decay in babies can negatively impact the development of not only their primary teeth but also potentially their permanent adult teeth. Thus, dentists recommend that parents clean their babies’ teeth with a clean, wet washrag after each breastfeeding session.
Do All Expecting and New Mothers Experience Dental Problems?
Just like not all pregnant mothers experience symptoms of nausea and vomiting, not all pregnant women will experience dental problems. A big chunk of it comes down to the woman’s dental routine and the current state of their teeth. Genetics, hormones, diet, and the like also play a big role. Another common aspect that can negatively impact a mother or expecting mother’s oral health is whether or not they’re dealing with prenatal or postpartum depression. Women dealing with the latter may become disinterested in their health. As a result, they might draw away from daily self-care tasks like brushing their teeth.
If a woman might be at a particularly higher risk of certain conditions that may impact their oral health, it’s critical that a plan is come up with in advance. It’s better to be overly prepared than to not be prepared at all. This is especially true if it might involve serious or permanent oral health problems.
Regardless of how easy pregnancy or post-pregnancy life is for you personally, it’s critical to still get your oral health into gear. Even the healthiest of pregnant women and new mothers are more vulnerable than ever before to dental-related problems. It’s never a bad idea to step your oral health up a notch and listen extra closely to your dentist’s advice.
Extra Precautions to Take for Mother’s Dental Health
As a pregnant or new mother, there are some extra things to consider to better ensure good oral health.
First things first: new mothers and expecting mothers should be very mindful of their current dental routine. Making sure to stick religiously to twice-a-day toothbrushing sessions and flossing daily is critical. For both expecting as well as breastfeeding mothers, fluoridated, alcohol-free mouthwash should be used daily as well.
Even if a woman is doing everything they can to keep their oral health in top-notch condition, sometimes things can still go wrong. Women experiencing signs of poor oral health during or shortly after pregnancy should make an appointment with a dentist right away. Before things worsen, they can step in and find a workable solution.
For instance, for expecting women dealing with the symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis, likely, a dentist will recommend using special anti-gingivitis toothpaste and mouthwash. They will also strongly advise flossing daily and getting extra deep cleanings at the dentist’s office. Or if a new mother is experiencing teeth grinding or clenching, the dentist may be able to prescribe them a mouth guard to keep their pearly whites protected.
All and all, the takeaway is that pregnant and breastfeeding women are at a higher risk of dental-related problems. If anything, a mother’s dental health is more important than ever before. These issues are never too soon to address. The sooner they get addressed, the quicker they can be resolved. And, thus, the more likely it is that the woman will be able to continue to house a healthy set of teeth and gums.