Pregnancy, Hormones & Oral Health

This section is dedicated to the latest information on oral health topics, culled from authoritative sources such as the American Dental Association.

Click here for the latest news from the American Dental Association.


Heart Disease

Poor dental hygiene can cause a host of problems outside your mouth-including your heart. Medical research has uncovered a definitive link between heart disease and certain kinds of oral infections such as periodontal disease. Some have even suggested that gum disease may be as dangerous as or more dangerous than other factors such as tobacco use. A condition called chronic periodontitis, or persistent gum disease, has been linked to cardiovascular problems by medical researchers.

In short, infections and harmful bacteria in your mouth can spread through the bloodstream to your liver, which produces harmful proteins that can lead to systemic cardiac problems. That's why it is critical to practice good oral hygiene to keep infections at bay-this includes a daily regimen of brushing, flossing and rinsing.


Antibiotic Prophylaxis

In some cases, patients with compromised immune systems or who fear an infection from a dental procedure may take antibiotics before visiting the dentist.

It is possible for bacteria from your mouth to enter your bloodstream during a dental procedure in which tissues are cut or bleeding occurs. A healthy immune system will normally fight such bacteria before they result in an infection. However, certain cardiovascular conditions in patients with weakened hearts could be at risk for an infection or heart muscle inflammation (bacterial endocarditis) resulting from a dental procedure.

Patients with heart conditions (including weakened heart valves) are strongly advised to inform our office before undergoing any dental procedure. The proper antibiotic will prevent any unnecessary complications.


Dentistry Health Care That Works: Tobacco

The American Dental Association has long been a leader in the battle against tobacco-related disease, working to educate the public about the dangers inherent in tobacco use and encouraging dentists to help their patients break the cycle of addiction. The Association has continually strengthened and updated its tobacco policies as new scientific information has become available.

Smoking and Implants

Recent studies have shown that there is a direct link between oral tissue and bones loss and smoking. Tooth loss and edentulism are more common in smokers than in non-smokers. In addition, people who smoke are more likely to develop severe periodontal disease.

The formation of deep mucosal pockets with inflammation of the peri-implant mucosa around dental implants is called peri-implantitis. Smokers treated with dental implants have a greater risk of developing peri-implantitis. This condition can lead to increased resorption of peri-implant bone. If left untreated, peri-implantitis can lead to implant failure. In a recent international study, smokers showed a higher score in bleeding index with greater peri-implant pocket depth and radiographically discernible bone resorption around the implant, particularly in the maxilla.

Many studies have shown that smoking can lead to higher rates of dental implant failure. In general, smoking cessation usually leads to improved periodontal health and a patient’s chance for successful implant acceptance.


External Links

Pregnant woman.You probably know that many physical and emotional changes you will experience during pregnancy result from an increase in the levels of certain hormones — the chemicals that regulate many important processes in the body. But what you may not realize is that these hormonal variations can affect your oral health — and usually not for the better. In fact, surges in the female hormones estrogen and progesterone can dilate (expand) the tiny blood vessels in your gums, increasing blood flow. This makes gums more sensitive to the bacteria (and associated toxins) found in the sticky dental plaque that accumulates on teeth every day.

Pregnant women commonly notice that their gums may become red and swollen, and even bleed when they floss or brush their teeth, a condition known as “pregnancy gingivitis.” Similar gum inflammation can result from taking birth control pills that contain a type of synthetic progesterone, or even from the normal hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle.

Another, less common effect of pregnancy hormones on the gums is an overgrowth of gum tissue or small, berry-colored lumps at the gum line or between teeth. These growths are called “pregnancy tumors,” though they are completely benign.

All of the above conditions usually clear up within a few months after giving birth. Still, if you experience gum inflammation, it's a sign that you need to take extra conscientious care of your teeth and gums during pregnancy.

Why It Matters

Pregnancy hormones don't cause gingivitis by themselves — the irritants in plaque need to be present first. So if you experience the signs and symptoms mentioned above, you'll want to redouble your oral hygiene efforts, both for your sake and your baby's. Untreated gingivitis can progress to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis — a bacterial infection that attacks not just the gums but also the tooth-supporting bone beneath. It can eventually cause bone loss, loose teeth and even tooth loss. Some research has even indicated a link between periodontal (gum) diseases and other serious health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Pregnant women should also be aware that studies have suggested a link between periodontal (gum) disease and preterm delivery. Although the exact mechanism by which this happens is unclear, evidence suggests that the bacteria in dental plaque can reach the placenta and trigger inflammatory responses. This causes substances to be released into the bloodstream that may in turn start labor prematurely. Preeclampsia, a form of high blood pressure specific to pregnancy, may also be associated with periodontal disease.

What You Can Do

  • Eat right. Even if pregnancy cravings are driving you to seek out sugar, try to go easy on the sweets. While they offer you and your developing baby virtually nothing in the way of nutrients, they're the favorite food of disease-causing oral bacteria. If you find you can't resist sweets, try to eat them only at mealtimes and make sure to brush your teeth afterwards.
  • Stick to a good oral hygiene routine. Make sure to floss every day and to brush your teeth at least twice per day. If morning (or afternoon or evening) sickness is a problem, don't brush immediately after throwing up. That's because the enamel on your teeth, which has been temporarily softened by the acid coming up from your stomach, can now be easily removed. Instead, rinse with a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in a cup of water (or even plain water) to neutralize the acid. Wait a full hour before brushing your teeth.
  • Have a dental cleaning and exam. Not only are professional cleanings safe during pregnancy, they're highly recommended. So if you haven't been to the dentist in a while, now is a great time to make an appointment. And don't forget to share the happy news! You teeth can certainly be cleaned and examined — but for other non-emergency dental procedures, it's probably best to wait.

Related Articles

Pregnancy - Dear Doctor Magazine

Pregnancy & Oral Health Pregnancy is generally thought of as the time when a woman strives to be particularly aware of the need for “health.” Many women though may not be aware of the link that exists between their oral health and their systemic (general) health, as well as the impact that many other factors can have on a developing child. Learn about how to care for yourself and your baby... Read Article

Pregnancy and Birth Control - Dear Doctor Magazine

Pregnancy & Birth Control Pregnant women or those taking birth control pills can become prone to gum disease — a bacterial infection caused by a buildup of dental plaque. That's because in both cases, the elevation of certain hormones causes blood vessel changes in the gums, making them more susceptible to the effects of bacteria... Read Article

Expectant Mothers - Dear Doctor Magazine

Expectant Mothers As an expectant mother, you know you need to take special care of yourself. But did you know this extra TLC extends to oral hygiene? Pregnancy hormones can make a woman more prone to gum disease and other oral health problems. Find what you can do to safeguard yourself and your baby... Read Article