It’s a myth that calcium is lost from the mother’s teeth and “one tooth is lost with every pregnancy.” But you may experience some changes in your oral health during pregnancy. The primary change is a surge in hormones, particularly an increase in estrogen and progesterone, which is linked to an increase in the amount of plaque on your teeth.

If the plaque isn’t removed, it can cause gingivitis, which results in red, swollen, tender gums that are more likely to bleed. So-called “pregnancy gingivitis” affects most pregnant women to some degree and generally begins to surface in the second trimester. If you already have gingivitis, the condition is likely to worsen during pregnancy. If untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, a more serious form of gum disease. Flossing at night time, before you brush and brushing in the morning, after breakfast, and adding a brushing after lunch will help with plaque accumulation. If you find that you cannot tolerate toothpaste, brush with water and rinse with a fluoridated mouth rinse. Research suggests a link between pre-term, low birth weight babies and gingivitis. Excessive bacteria, which causes gingivitis, can enter the bloodstream through your gums. If this happens, the bacteria can travel to the uterus, triggering the production of chemicals called prostaglandins, which is suspected to induce premature labor. Pregnant women are also at risk for developing mouth pregnancy tumors (pyogenic granulomas) which are inflammatory, benign growths that develop when swollen gums become irritated. Normally, the tumors are left alone and subside on their own. However, if a tumor is uncomfortable and interferes with chewing, brushing or other oral hygiene procedures, the dentist may decide to remove it.

If you’re planning to become pregnant or suspect you’re pregnant, you should see a dentist right away to have a complete examination as any major dental work should be avoided during the 9 months of gestation. An assessment appointment should be scheduled during the latter portion of the first trimester to determine your oral condition and map out a dental plan for the rest of your pregnancy. Depending on the patient, one or two more appointments may be scheduled during the second and third trimesters for another cleanings. The third trimester appointment, if necessary, should take place early in the trimester and should be kept as brief as possible.

Be extremely cautious of all drugs you take during pregnancy. If you have gingivitis or periodontal disease, your dentist may want to treat you more often to achieve healthy gums and a healthy baby. Although dental anesthetics such as novocaine or lidocaine can enter the placenta, which filters out most drugs, the doses used in most dental procedures are considered safe during pregnancy. If you need to have dental work done during your pregnancy, research has shown that some acceptable antibiotics include penicillin, amoxicillin, and clindamycin, but avoid tetracycline, which can cause discoloration of your child’s temporary and permanent teeth. Products containing acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, are approved, but you should be wary of other over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Avoid using narcotics for dental pain.

If you have any concerns about treatment or medications, make sure to ask your Dentist or Obstetrician before receiving treatment. Good nutrition, particularly plenty of vitamin C and B12, help keep the oral cavity healthy and strong. More frequent dental cleanings by your dentist will help control plaque and prevent gingivitis. Controlling plaque will also reduce tissue irritation and decrease the likelihood of pregnancy tumors.

The healthier your mouth is, the healthier and happier your pregnancy and baby will be.