Pregnancy & Brushing for Two, or Three!

By: J. Shahangian Parenting, Postpartum, Pregnancy November 20, 2019


As a soon to be mom, you make all sorts of sacrifices. Of course, expecting moms gladly and gracefully give of themselves with full awareness of the much greater rewards once the baby is born. During nine months of carrying your baby, you may get a bit tunnel-visioned on making everything perfect for baby’s arrival and neglecting your own well being – perhaps thinking it’s just another necessary sacrifice. But most health professionals encourage a different take on this.

As an expectant mom you’re encouraged to not only continue your self-care, but to prioritize it more than ever. In fact, the truth is that a mom who cares for herself is actually benefiting her unborn baby. That’s especially true when it comes to the health of her teeth and gums.

Dentists commonly see a deterioration in the oral health of pregnant women and moms of infants.  Much of this decline in the health of teeth and gums goes hand in hand with pregnancy, for example:

Changes in hormone levels during pregnancy affect the health of mom’s gums. The so-called “pregnancy gingivitis” describes inflammation of the gums commonly attributed to pregnancy hormones. This common issue can become more serious when oral bacteria travel below the gums and affect the bones and roots of teeth. So what starts as gum inflammation can damage jaw bone and roots of teeth. And yes, this is the basis for the old wives tale “for every child the mother loses a tooth”.

  •         After a full day, most everyone’s worn out, now add in pregnancy, and we’ve got a whole new definition for tired. It’s no surprise that routine nighttime brushing and flossing can become patchy at best. Now, many will even skip their professional dental cleanings, adding insult to injury. This will translate to plaque build up and exaggeration of inflamed gums.
  •         Morning sickness is no friend to a healthy mouth. Stomach acid that finds its way into the oral cavity weakens the outer layer of the tooth by demineralization. This means expectant moms can be more prone to getting cavities and gum disease.
  •         What about the more frequent eating or as it’s come to be known as “eating for two”? It’s no secret that you’ll need more calories and especially because of nausea snack more frequently. Most foods and drinks we consume are acidic. This puts teeth in constant contact with acidity which will challenge the hardness of the enamel. Additionally, a mouth that is constantly acidic will select for acid-loving bacteria such as Strep Mutans. This type of bacteria is very capable of causing cavities and gum disease.

In the last decade, scientists have learned that a mom’s oral health is connected to the health of her unborn baby – and it can all be traced to the oral bioflora (a fancy way of saying combination of bacteria in her mouth).

When a mom-to-be has high numbers of detrimental bacteria growing in her mouth, they use her inflamed gums to seep into her arteries and eventually make their way to the uterus — her body will then try and defend against these harmful bacteria, by releasing chemicals that are known to lead to premature labor.

It’s worth noting that once your newborn arrives, the bacteria that lives inside of your mouth is the most common source of bacteria passed down to the near sterile mouth of your infant. This is natural, but the more bad bacteria your have, the more you will pass down to your child. The more good bacteria you have, the better off your sweet little newborn.

So, hopefully you’re not too grossed out at this point and can consider this important conclusion. While eating right, exercising, getting prenatal care and making all sorts of sacrifices to make their baby’s arrival perfect, moms, you need to keep your oral health on the radar as a primary concern.

It’s a bit hard to envision this, but when a pregnant or recently blessed mom is brushing her teeth and taking care of her mouth, she’s really brushing for two.

About the author:
J. Shahangian, DDS, MS, is a breastfeeding advocate, board certified pediatric dentist, and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Oral Health. He practices in his hometown of San Diego at Scripps Pediatric Dentistry (SPD) and is an associate professor in pediatric dentistry at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Shahanigan is also on staff at Rady Children's Hospital and is a proud father of three girls. Follow SPD on Instagram @scrippspediatricdemtistry and check out his Blog.​