We’ve huddled many times on how you can stop children’s tooth decay and help your kids live a cavity-free life.
As you’ll see from the literature, there is a direct link between pregnancy and increases in both tooth decay and gum disease. And it’s not just the mom who takes the hit. Research suggests that the developing baby might also be at risk if mom’s oral health slips during pregnancy
3 common oral health challenges during pregnancy
Let’s start by highlighting a few ways in which pregnancy can impact the oral health of the mother.
1. Increased risk of tooth decay caused by pregnancy-related nutrient deficiencies
A woman’s body is hardwired to address her baby’s nutritional needs first.
This means that unless the mom is ultra nutritionally-conscientious during her entire pregnancy, since her body will give to the baby first, the mom may progressively develop a deficiency in the nutrients needed for her to maintain optimal oral health.
Common signs of this are increased instances of cavities during and after pregnancy.
2. Increased gum disease risk for mom
If the appropriate thug bugs are already colonizing the pregnant mom’s gum line, the above-mentioned nutritional deficits combined with hormonal shifts from pregnancy can set the stage for thug bugs to ramp up their attack on the mom’s gum health.
It is extremely common for gum pocket depths to increase (get worse) during pregnancy.
3. Increased risk of long-term enamel damage from morning sickness
Repeated exposure to the strong acids from vomiting really can cause a lot of damage to the long-term health of the mom’s teeth. Later we’ll share a gem of a resource to help you reduce and possibly completely avoid morning sickness.
How common is gum disease during pregnancy?
It really depends who you ask.
According to the CDC, “Nearly 60 to 75% of pregnant women have gingivitis”. While gingivitis (bleeding gums) is an early stage of gum disease, as you’ll see below, the systemic inflammatory cascade caused by gum disease creates a very real threat to the health and optimal development of the baby.
(Incidentally, this is precisely why we focus so much on bleeding gums. Many signs of early gum disease, like red or swollen gums, are kind of subjective. However, it’s pretty easy to identify whether or not your gums bleed when you’re gently, yet thoroughly flossing. Your gums either bleed or they don’t. If they do, that’s gingivitis.)
Back to the prevalence of gum disease.
One research study states, “Periodontal disease is a Gram-negative anaerobic infection of the mouth that affects up to 90% of the population and has been demonstrated to be higher in pregnant women.“
And while the risks to the mother are enough to warrant preventive action, research clearly shows that there can be a negative impact on the unborn child, too. (Don’t worry, we do share solutions soon!)
Increased risk for child if mom has gum disease
Unaddressed gum disease can cause systemic inflammation.
Research clearly shows a very real increased risk for the baby if the mother has active gum (periodontal) disease.
According to researchers, maternal periodontal disease was associated with a seven-fold increased risk of delivering a preterm, low birth weight infant. This study goes on to state, “…about 18% of PLBW [preterm, low birth weight] cases might be attributable to periodontal disease.”
The baby’s development is optimized when the child stays in utero through 40 weeks. If we can lower the risk of having the baby preterm by taking better care of our oral health, then we think this is a worthwhile investment of our time.
So what can we do to help lower our risk of tooth decay and gum disease during pregnancy?
Let’s pivot to share several solutions to help you to both maintain your own optimal oral health as well as to optimize the health of your developing baby.
First, let’s focus specifically on ‘in-the-mouth’ strategies. After that, we’ll dive into some ‘whole-body’ solutions for supporting oral health.
Avoid major dental work during pregnancy and breastfeeding
We’d all agree that it’s best to avoid increasing any toxic ‘body burden’ for anyone, especially a developing child. This is particularly important if you’re considering having mercury amalgam fillings removed.
Since mercury is a very potent neurotoxin, we want to avoid all risks of exposing the developing child to mercury.
If you still have mercury amalgam fillings and are pregnant, we even think it might be wise to consider postponing your next dental cleaning until after the baby is born. This can help you (and your baby) to avoid any increased mercury vapor exposure that the dental team inadvertently generates as they clean around amalgam fillings.
Learn to brush your teeth to reduce the risk of gum disease before you become pregnant.
Again, several factors related to pregnancy can increase the chance of gum disease progressing in the mom’s mouth.
Before you even get pregnant, it’s wise to get into the habit of using a brushing technique that’s clinically proven to reduce gum disease. This will help you to avoid the complications that can arise from developing full-blown gum disease.
Use holistic products formulated to help protect against tooth decay and gum disease.
Our Healthy Mouth Blend does a fabulous job to help re-balance our oral flora and prevent thug bugs from undermining our oral health.
When used with our not-fancy-but-effective Bass toothbrushes (along with the Bass Brushing Technique that we touched on above), the Healthy Mouth Blend is a tremendous solution for anyone who is at higher risk of gum health issues
If morning sickness is an issue
First, if you vomit, make sure you rinse your mouth with clean water 2 to 3 times afterwards.
The acids from vomit really compromise our tooth enamel, so we want to try to rinse them away as best we can.
If you can handle a little salt in your swishing solution, consider mixing a teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of water. You can keep that solution on hand to swish with after vomiting (the baking soda will help to neutralize the strong acids that are left in the mouth).
Also, be sure to avoid brushing your teeth right after vomiting.
Since the enamel has been temporarily ’softened’ from the exposure to acids, you risk damaging your enamel if you brush right after vomiting. Just rinse 2 to 3 times with room temperature water (with a pinch of baking soda, if tolerated) to help neutralize any remaining acids.
First off, there are two foundation steps that we wanted to quickly touch on here–stress and sleep.
- Check your stress levels and, if needed, begin incorporating some daily stress reduction techniques. Growing a baby is hard work that can put a lot of stress on the body. And there’s a lot of mental stress that goes along with the whole process of being pregnant, giving birth, being a parent, etc. So it can be super helpful to develop the habit of practicing some daily stress reduction techniques (and then carrying through with them going forward in life).
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep (this may be easier during pregnancy than after the baby is born, so take advantage of it now). Did we mention that growing a baby is hard work? 🙂 The body needs sleep to rest, reset, and repair itself. Unfortunately, lots of people have developed the mentality of, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” The problem is, chronic sleep deprivation can open the door to all kinds of health complications. So, we really encourage folks to reevaluate their views (and priorities) when it comes to getting some quality shut-eye.
Dietary specifics for optimizing nutrition during pregnancy and nursing…
Here are several excellent tips from expert friends of ours regarding how you can optimize your diet to support a healthier pregnancy for both you and your baby.
Reduce your carbohydrate consumption
“Pregnant women should focus on the most bioavailable and dense sources of nutrition, which means choosing meats, fats, and vegetables/fruits over grains, sugars and baked goods.”
Increase your consumption of healthy fats
You may be tired of hearing about this, but until our entire culture gets beyond the myth that fats are bad and low fat is better, we’re going to continue singing this song.
In fact, we decided that eating healthy fats is our #1 oral health diet hack to avoid cavities and stop tooth decay.
Eating healthy fats is super important not only for one’s oral health, but also for the health of the whole body (including the developing baby’s brain).
Is there a specific ‘pregnancy diet’?
The Weston A. Price Foundation has written an excellent overview of the findings from Dr. Price’s travels to study indigenous cultures and their dietary traditions. Their article, “Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers“, is a classic.
In that article, they list out specific foods to eat while pregnant and nursing (as well as foods to avoid). If you really want to take your health and the health of your developing baby to the next level, we encourage you to check it out.
Optimizing depending on where you are along the pregnancy path…
One researcher gives a great breakdown of the 5 phases of prenatal health as well as strategies you can apply based on where you find yourself in your pregnancy (pre, early, midterm, etc.).
Give the moms in your life a hug!
This mom-focused article was an inspiration for Mother’s Day, but it’s gotten us thinking about other mom-focused oral health topics like:
- What foods to eat to support and protect your teeth while nursing
- What to do to avoid the common advancement of gum disease during pregnancy
- How to give your baby the very best start with their oral health
Would you like to hear more from us on oral health solutions for moms? If so, please drop us a note in the comments section below to let us know what subjects you’d like us to research and report on. It’s an honor to serve you and your family in this precious and important way.