2009-06-18 / Community News

Chew on This

Oral health news from Baylor College of Dentistry

The Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry is pleased to provide the latest installment of "Chew on This" with the following tips: Morning sickness can increase risk of tooth decay.

Morning sickness, a common condition early in a pregnancy, can be unsettling for the mom-tobe, but the frequent vomiting associated with morning sickness can be even more devastating on the teeth.

Frequent vomiting exposes the teeth to stomach acid and can wear away the tooth enamel. This can cause the teeth to become sensitive, or pregnant women may develop white lines on their teeth, a sign of demineralization. These white lines may indicate early stages of decay.

Both conditions can be treated easily by a dentist. As long as the enamel surface is intact, fluoride applications can reverse the white lines caused by demineralization. Fluoride applications also have been shown to decrease sensitivity of teeth.

"Pregnant women should brush in the morning and evening with fluoride toothpaste, floss regularly, and use a fluoride mouthrinse to lower the risk of damage to the teeth from stomach acid," says Dr. Linda Niessen, clinical professor in restorative sciences at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry.

Dental professionals also advise brushing or rinsing midday and drinking plenty of water throughout the day, especially after eating or if nausea brings stomach contents into the mouth. Expectant mothers should eat a wellbalanced diet and limit sugars and starches - foods that promote tooth decay.

Gingivitis during pregnancy

The increased levels of hormones, especially progesterone, present during pregnancy can make gums more susceptible to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums that can lead to gum recession. Pregnancy-induced gingivitis occurs in 60 percent to 75 percent of all pregnancies.

Elevated hormone levels make it easier for certain types of gingivitis causing bacteria to grow and make gum tissue more sensitive to plaque.

Gingivitis usually develops between the second and eighth month of pregnancy. Signs of pregnancy gingivitis range from slight swelling and redness of the gums to severe swelling and bleeding of gum tissue during toothbrushing. Healthy gums should not bleed during brushing.

If you experience the symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis, be sure to visit your dentist to see if you need more frequent dental cleanings or other treatment. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease or gum disease and can cause tooth loss. New research has shown that pregnant women with periodontal disease are more likely to deliver low birth weight babies.

"While good oral hygiene is important to everyone, it is especially so with pregnant women," says Dr. Patricia Blanton, a periodontist and professor emeritus in biomedical sciences at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry. "The best way to prevent pregnancy gingivitis is to practice good oral hygiene and to visit your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings."

Dr. Blanton recommends that you brush your teeth at least twice a day, use an antimicrobial mouth rinse and be sure to floss daily.

Pregnancy tumors

During the second trimester of pregnancy, some women develop what is known as a pregnancy tumor, a red or purple growth in the mouth.

The growth is non-cancerous and can form anywhere in the mouth. Usually, however, it occurs on the front side of the top or bottom teeth near the gumline. It is usually attached by a narrow stem of tissue. This bump bleeds easily and may form an open wound. Pregnancy tumors range in size from only a few millimeters to one to two inches.

If the pregnancy tumor interferes with eating or is painful, your dentist may advise you to remove it before you deliver your baby. If you decide to leave it untreated until after the baby is born, it can be removed once you deliver.

"You can reduce the chances of getting a pregnancy tumor by having regular dental cleanings before you become pregnant, visiting the dentist during your pregnancy if you notice any changes in your gums, and brushing and flossing every day both before and during your pregnancy," says Dr. Terry Rees, professor and director of the Stomatology Center at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry.

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