Gain A Child, Lose A Tooth (And Other Dental Myths About Pregnancy)
As we approach Mother’s Day, we thought it appropriate to focus on mums and dental care, and where better to start off than by addressing some dental myths about pregnancy.
Myth No. 1: Gain A Child, Lose A Tooth
Perhaps you’ve heard of the saying “Gain a Child, Lose A Tooth” or something similar?
The Myth that a woman will inevitably lose a tooth during pregnancy (or at least should expect dental problems as a result of it) reflects the widespread belief that a woman loses calcium from her teeth and bones during pregnancy because the developing baby needs it for the development of their own teeth and bones.
Interestingly, research carried out by the New York University show that there is a relationship between childbirth and dental disease, at least in the US.
The author of the study, Dr Stefanie Russell, concluded that:
- The hormonal changes during pregnancy definitely cause the gums to become inflamed, and this usually resolves once the baby is born. She suggested that following multiple pregnancies, a woman might be more likely to develop gum disease as a result, and untreated gum disease can lead to tooth loss.
- Some women have neither the time nor the inclination to visit a dentist during (and possibly in the busy months or years) after pregnancy. Sometimes dentists are reluctant to treat pregnant women.
- Pregnant mothers and mothers with kids may eat more junk food than women without children, for various reasons. We all know that lots of junk food, especially sugary foods, can lead to tooth decay, which may ultimately lead to tooth loss if the decay is not treated early enough.
We’d like to add that the acid erosion of enamel that may occur as a result of morning sickness will also put a woman’s teeth at increased risk of developing dental diseases.
It’s important to point out that gum disease AND tooth decay are entirely preventable diseases: the keys to prevention are thorough brushing and flossing, minimising sugars in the diet and having regular checkups so that disease can be identified and treated in its earliest stages.
Which leads us to the next myth…
Myth No. 2: Dental Visits Must Be Postponed During Pregnancy
Many people believe that dental visits must be postponed during pregnancy. In fact, the research mentioned above indicates that some dentists are reluctant to treat women during pregnancy, and this was due to the training that they had received, as well as the more limited repertoire of medications, materials and treatment modalities.
It’s important for expectant mothers to enjoy good health, both for her own well-being and that of her unborn child. It is not good practice for a woman to be in constant pain or to experience an untreated infection (such as a dental abscess) for the entire course of her pregnancy.
Even if there is no pain, as is most often the case in gum disease, it has been demonstrated in a number of studies that an infection such as periodontal disease is a risk factor for premature birth.
The Australian Dental Association recommends that women continue with their regular dental visits during (and after!) their pregnancies to ensure that they enjoy good dental health. It also assures expectant mothers that, when dental treatment is required during pregnancy, this can be done safely.
And Something That You May Not Know…
It is important for expectant mothers to be aware of their role in influencing a lifetime of good dental health for their newborn child, right from the earliest days. It has been shown that mothers in particular share the bacteria in their mouth with their children: bacteria from a mother’s mouth are passed on to her child through activities such as kissing and sharing utensils, or even just as a consequence of their daily closeness.
If a mother’s mouth is harbouring a high number of the types of bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease, these may be the bacteria that first settle in a baby’s mouth. This ‘seeding’ of ‘bad bacteria’ into a baby’s mouth has been linked to Early Childhood Caries (tooth decay in children).
If a mother’s mouth has a healthier mix of bacteria present, or if the transmission of ‘bad bacteria’ is minimised in the early days, months and years, the baby’s dental health gets off to a good start!