Women's Journal

Oral Health During Pregnancy: What You Need to Know From Dr. Joyce Kahng

Dr. Joyce Kahng
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Pregnancy is a transformative journey that brings about numerous changes in a woman’s body, and its effects are noticed through every aspect of health. While many aspects of pregnancy are well-documented and widely discussed, one important facet often goes unnoticed: oral health. Taking meticulous care of your mouth, teeth, and gums during pregnancy is about maintaining a radiant smile and ensuring a healthy pregnancy and a thriving baby. 

To shed light on this crucial topic, Dr. Joyce Kahng, dental influencer and owner of Orange and Magnolia Dental Studio, shares her insights on dental care for pregnant women. Dr. Kahng provides valuable information about the unique challenges and considerations that pregnant women face when it comes to maintaining their oral health. 

Gum Sensitivity During Pregnancy

Gum sensitivity and inflammation are prevalent oral health issues that can become more pronounced during pregnancy. Dr. Joyce Kahng underscores the heightened sensitivity of gums as a notable change that many pregnant women experience. This sensitivity often leads to gum inflammation, making the gums appear red, swollen, and tender. Pregnant women may notice more bleeding despite good home hygiene. These symptoms are primarily attributed to hormonal fluctuations, with increased levels of estrogen and progesterone, which can intensify the body’s response to irritants like plaque.

If left unaddressed, gum inflammation can progress to more severe gum diseases, such as periodontitis. Pregnancy gingivitis is a common oral health concern for expectant mothers, characterized by redness, swelling, tenderness, and bleeding of the gums. Research indicates that this condition is uncomfortable and associated with more significant risks. Studies suggest a link between untreated pregnancy gingivitis and an increased likelihood of giving birth prematurely before 37 weeks of gestation. Expectant mothers must be proactive in their oral care routines during pregnancy to minimize these symptoms and prevent potential complications. 

Pregnancy Oral Tumors

Pregnancy tumors, also known as pyogenic granulomas, are non-cancerous growths that can develop in the mouth during pregnancy. They typically appear as red or raw, raspberry-like lumps or swellings on the gums, often between the teeth. Pregnancy tumors are associated with the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. In most cases, pregnancy tumors are harmless and tend to resolve on their own after giving birth. However, they can bleed easily and may cause discomfort and be alarming. If a pregnancy tumor becomes problematic or persistent, a dentist or oral health professional may recommend treatment options such as removal or other appropriate interventions.

Vulnerability to Cavities

Another fascinating aspect of pregnancy is the drop in salivary calcium levels during this time. This decrease in the concentration of calcium in saliva has consequences for oral health. Saliva is the body’s natural protective mechanism, and salivary calcium plays a crucial role in strengthening tooth enamel, contributing to overall dental protection. A decline in salivary calcium levels can result in an increased risk for cavities. Dr. Joyce Kahng says pregnant women should be aware that their susceptibility to dental decay increases during this time, and it is important to help buffer these changes with home care. She says many women discontinue using anticavity toothpaste, thinking that it isn’t recommended during pregnancy when, in actuality, fluoride toothpaste would be helpful for protecting enamel. 

Shifting Teeth During Pregnancy

A lesser-known aspect of dental health during pregnancy that Dr. Kahng brings to light is the shifting of teeth. Many new mothers often notice that their teeth have moved after giving birth, and they seek orthodontic solutions such as Invisalign to address these changes. Dr. Kahng acknowledges that the exact reasons for this phenomenon are not yet fully understood. Some hypotheses point to hormonal factors, while others mention the role of calcium in bone softening. This also means that women should be even more diligent about wearing their retainers post-orthodontic treatment during their pregnancy. 

Tailored Products and Practices for Pregnant Women

As we explore pregnancy’s unique dental challenges, it becomes apparent that tailored products and practices are essential. Dr. Joyce Kahng suggests some practical approaches that pregnant women can adopt to maintain their oral health during this time.

  1. Water Flossers: Dr. Kahng recommends the use of water flossers during pregnancy, especially due to the often heightened gag reflex experienced by pregnant women. Water flossers offer an effective way to clean between teeth and along the gumline without triggering discomfort.
  2. Fluoride Toothpaste: Despite common misconceptions, fluoride toothpaste is not contraindicated during pregnancy. In fact, it can be especially beneficial as it provides added protection against cavities. Dr. Kahng highlights the importance of continuing to use fluoride toothpaste during pregnancy to maintain good oral health.
  3. Neutralizing Sprays: A handy addition to an expectant mother’s oral care toolkit is a neutralizing spray. Dr. Kahng suggests the CTX2 spray from Carifree, an Amazon-available product that can help neutralize oral pH. This is particularly useful for countering the effects of acid exposure after vomiting, a common experience during pregnancy.
  4. Timing of Brushing: Pregnant women are advised to wait at least 30 minutes after morning sickness before brushing their teeth. Brushing immediately after vomiting can erode tooth enamel due to the presence of stomach acid. Rinsing with water or using a neutralizing spray can help protect teeth in the interim.

Maternal Influence on a Child’s Oral Health

Dr. Joyce Kahng shares a valuable piece of information regarding maternal influence on a child’s oral health. She explains that infants and young children are not inherently prone to cavities; rather, they inherit certain bacteria through saliva exchange with their caregivers, such as parents or other family members. This exchange can occur through actions like kissing on the lips or sharing food or utensils. Dr. Kahng recommends minimizing the transfer of these bacteria to reduce a child’s susceptibility to cavities during their early years.

Taking care of your oral health during pregnancy is an important part of overall well-being. By being proactive about your dental care and understanding the changes in your oral health, you can ensure a healthier and more comfortable pregnancy journey.

To schedule a visit with Dr. Joyce Kahng, visit https://www.omdentalstudio.com/

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