It sounds crazy but your teeth can actually have a negative effect on your pregnancy. Well, it’s not so much your teeth but the dental plaque and inflammation that arise from not looking after them carefully enough.
It is thought that oral bacteria may play a role in uterine infections, leading to negative pregnancy outcomes.
In a study which analyzed the outcomes of 3,823 pregnant women, gum disease (also called periodontitis), a condition in which gums are inflamed as well as infected, was associated with an increased risk of late miscarriage (between 12-24 weeks gestation).1 Another study found an association between gum disease and preterm birth as well as smaller-than-normal babies at birth.2
As well as your dental health possibly affecting your pregnancy, your pregnancy can also affect your teeth. If you already have gingivitis or gum disease, this may worsen during pregnancy, especially during the second trimester.3 This is due to hormonal changes which result in a build-up of plaque on your teeth, leading to increased inflammation, and even bleeding.4 Gingivitis is considered to be a precursor to gum disease as the gums are inflamed but unlike gum disease there is no actual infection present.5
Other changes to your teeth during pregnancy include increased sensitivity and increased risk of tooth decay/dental caries. Increases in dental caries are linked to increases of caries-causing bacteria during pregnancy as well as changed dietary patterns. One study found that pregnant women were almost twice as likely to have dental caries than non-pregnant women.6
There is common myth that pregnancy can result in actual tooth loss and there is even an old German saying which describes this: ‘Every child costs the mother one tooth’. However, the evidence to support this is patchy. One recent study of 2,635 women found that the more children a mother had, the more teeth she lost. However, this does not necessarily mean that her teeth more caries due leading to tooth loss as a result of pregnancy. It could be that women who had more children, and who may have had a lower socio-economic status, had their teeth extracted where as women who had fewer children, and who may have had a higher socio-economic status, were able to have their teeth treated or restored.7
There is another common belief that a pregnancy will deplete your teeth of calcium. However, this doesn’t appear to be true. If you aren’t getting an adequate intake of calcium, then your body will preferentially use calcium from your bones rather than your teeth for the developing fetus.8
In conclusion, even though your pregnancy may not deplete your teeth of calcium or cause them to fall out, the link between dental health and negative pregnancy outcomes, as well as the increased risk of gum disease and caries due to pregnancy, mean that it is worthwhile practicing a good oral routine daily while pregnant – at a minimum, brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once per day.7
Have you had dental health issues during pregnancy? Share your stories in the comments section!