Hormones and other changes during pregnancy can increase oral health risks and related problems

3 minute read

There are many common myths about oral health care during pregnancy, including the ideas that you can expect to lose a tooth for every child and that dental visits should be avoided. In fact, good oral health care is even more important when you’re expecting, as oral health problems that develop during pregnancy may also affect your child.

At Kelmscott Dental, we recommend booking a check-up and clean appointment before pregnancy or in your first trimester so our dentists can address any problems early and give you advice for lowering your risks. Call our team on (08) 9495 7999 to schedule an appointment for family dentistry in Kelmscott or [book online].

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Why are pregnant women more susceptible to oral health problems?


Pregnancy itself doesn’t cause poor oral health, but changes in body processes and habits resulting from pregnancy are risk factors. These changes include:

  • Hormone changes: Increases in oestrogen and progesterone hormones can make the gums more prone to bleeding and swelling, and can also reduce saliva flow.
  • Vomiting: Morning sickness can cause the teeth to be exposed to stomach acids in vomit, which can weaken and wear down tooth enamel.
  • Cravings: Some food cravings during pregnancy may be bad for teeth and gums if they involve consuming excess sugar or starchy carbohydrates that can feed bacteria in plaque.

That doesn’t mean that pregnant women should expect to have unhealthy teeth and gums – rather, that it’s especially important to follow a proper oral hygiene routine during this time.

What are common oral health problems during pregnancy?

According to a 2019 review of studies, pregnant women may be more likely to have gum problems and tooth decay. Gum disease during pregnancy is also linked with an increased risk of premature delivery, low birth weight and pre-eclampsia, among other concerns.*

Gum problems


Hormone changes during pregnancy can make some people more prone to gum disease and other gum problems.

  • In the early stage of gum disease (gingivitis), the gums may swell and bleed, especially when brushing or flossing. This can usually be treated with ongoing professional cleans at your dentist combined with proper daily care at home. Gingivitis is thought to occur in around 40% of pregnancies.*
  • If not treated, gingivitis can develop into more serious periodontitis, which can lead to gum recession, jaw bone loss and eventually tooth loss. This will require ongoing treatment from a dentist.
  • Some people may also develop red growths on their gums, known as pregnancy epulis or pyogenic granuloma. These can be prone to bleeding, but are otherwise harmless and often go away on their own. If they need to be removed, this isn’t recommended until after giving birth.


Tooth problems


One common misconception about pregnancy is that the developing foetus gets calcium from its mother’s teeth in order to grow, which can lead to the mothers’ tooth loss. While rates of tooth decay and tooth loss are higher during pregnancy, this may be caused by a combination of factors, such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting exposing the teeth to acids
  • Food cravings increasing sugar intake, which feeds bacteria in plaque
  • Reduced saliva, which is important for rinsing the mouth, neutralising acids and remineralising enamel
  • Neglecting oral hygiene and avoiding dental visits

Like gum disease, tooth decay is a preventable disease that can be improved with a good oral hygiene routine supported by professional scale and cleans at a dental clinic.

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Related problems

Oral health is connected to overall health, and bacterial infections or inflammation that begin in the mouth can affect other parts of the body through the bloodstream.

Gum disease during pregnancy is a risk factor for several pregnancy complications, including premature birth, low birth weight and pre-eclampsia, or high blood pressure. Multiple studies have also found links between gum disease and other diseases, including heart disease and stroke.

If it’s been longer than 6 months since you visited the dentist or you’re planning to get pregnant, contact us today to schedule a check-up.

How to avoid dental problems while pregnant


While everyone’s risk factors are different, you can lower your risk of oral health problems and related complications and treatments by sticking to good daily habits, and avoiding bad ones. Here are some suggestions.

Daily oral hygiene care

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day using fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss between your teeth at least once a day
  • Use a mouth rinse if recommended by your dentist
  • If you have sensitive gums, gargling with warm salt water may reduce their sensitivity

Healthy diet

  • Follow a balanced diet high in calcium, phosphorus, and A, C and D vitamins
  • Limit your sugar intake to avoid feeding bacteria that cause decay and gum disease
  • Drink plenty of water, especially water containing fluoride, such as tap water
  • Talk to your doctor if you think you might need nutritional supplements

Avoid tobacco and alcohol

Smoking is a major risk factor for gum disease and other oral health problems, especially when combined with heavy alcohol consumption. Both should be avoided during pregnancy to lower the risks for both mother and child.

Regular dental visits

If you’re planning to get pregnant soon, we recommend seeing a dentist so they can address any possible issues ahead of time. For example, if you’ve been nursing a niggling wisdom tooth on and off, it may be easier to have the tooth removed before you fall pregnant, as any treatment that requires sedation will generally need to be postponed until after your pregnancy.

It’s generally recommended to see a dentist once or twice a year for a routine check-up and oral hygiene treatments to help prevent and remove plaque, but your dentist may recommend more frequent visits, depending on your risk profile.

Some people are concerned about visiting the dental clinic while they’re pregnant, but your dentist and their team will take extra precautions to ensure your safety and comfort. Both x-rays and local anaesthesia can be provided safely during pregnancy, but your dentist will avoid these unless necessary, and non-urgent treatments should be postponed until after pregnancy.

Book an appointment for family dentistry in Kelmscott

If you’re expecting, our experienced dentists and support staff at Kelmscott Dental will help you to feel comfortable, safe and relaxed while getting the important oral health care you need. To arrange an appointment at our local Kelmscott dental clinic, call us now on (08) 9495 7999 or book online. We welcome patients from Armadale, Gosnells and surrounding areas.

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  1. * Yenen Z, Ataçağ T. Oral care in pregnancy. J Turk Ger Gynecol Assoc. 2019 Nov 28;20(4):264-268. doi: 10.4274/jtgga.galenos.2018.2018.0139. Epub 2018 Dec 17. PMID: 30556662; PMCID: PMC6883753.
  2. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/pregnancy-and-teeth