She might be famous for her perfect white smile, but in her column for The Sun, singer and presenter Stacey Solomon recently said that being pregnant with her second child left her with decaying teeth resembling “brown pegs” where she’d previously never even needed a filling.
According to Stacey, “In the first few months of my second pregnancy I was seeing the dentist more than my midwife. I endured problem after problem.
“Up until that point I’d never even had a filling and all of a sudden I was being drilled into left, right and centre. My teeth turned a funny colour, I had to have some removed as they were so damaged and I was soon full of fillings.”
But what causes this strange occurrence for some pregnant women?
The truth about pregnancy and dental health
As you might expect, the hormonal fluctuations that women experience during pregnancy can be behind problems such as gum disease and a higher risk of tooth decay. This comes about not because of higher build up in plaque, but simply because raised hormones makes it more difficult to effectively deal with the plaque.
This heightened risk from naturally occurring plaque, as well as the usual side effects of pregnancy, such as morning sickness and cravings for more sugary foods, can lead to issues including:
Gingivitis (gum disease) – Common during the second trimester and can cause swollen and bleeding gums, especially when brushing and using dental floss.
Periodontal disease – If you already have this recurrent or long-term gum infection, as a result of untreated gingivitis, you could experience tooth loss.
Pregnancy epulis or pyogenic granuloma – This can occur in a specific area and results in inflamed/enlarged gums which can bleed.
Enamel erosion – Acidity caused by dietary changes or morning sickness can erode tooth enamel which can lead to yellowing, sensitivity and cavities.
The effects don’t just last while you are pregnant. For some women they can endure even into breastfeeding. There is also some research that has linked pregnant women who have gum disease to giving birth prematurely to babies with a low birth weight (as much as 18 in every 100 premature births).
How can you stop pregnancy ruining your teeth?
If you already have good dental health habits then you’re less likely to suffer. That means ensuring you brush thoroughly twice a day, floss and brush interdentally after meals, and use a fluoride non-alcohol mouthwash after meals.
Other steps can include:
- Opt for fresh fruit instead of sugary snacks when cravings attack
- Don’t brush for an hour after being sick
- Cut out fizzy drinks
- Stop smoking (for the health of your baby and your mouth)
- Use a small-headed, soft-bristled toothbrush
- Rinse with water and mouthwash after retching
- Inform your dentist that you are pregnant and attend all appointments
- Speak to your GP and dentist about increasing your calcium and vitamin D intake
It’s important to know that while calcium is important to build strong teeth and bones, it’s not true that breastfeeding is to blame for your dental problems during pregnancy. If you suffer from low calcium levels while breastfeeding, it’s actually more likely to affect your bones than teeth.
Planning to get pregnant? Ideally try to speak to your dentist before you conceive to see if you need any work doing, or if you would like elective dental procedures carrying out. It’s better to try and have any treatment done before you become pregnant but some work can still be carried out in the early stages.