Many of life’s situations influence our mouth’s biochemistry and can cause it to deteriorate. The months of pregnancy and those following a baby’s birth can be particularly challenging times for a mother’s oral health. Moms who previously enjoyed perfect teeth are often shocked to develop multiple cavities, or experience loose fillings, fractured or sensitive teeth, or find their gums are swollen, bleed, or that gum recession exposes the roots of some teeth. Obviously this is a distressing situation and everyone should want to protect their mouth from cavities, gum disease and dental damage during pregnancy, but there are even more important reasons to care about oral health during pregnancy. Today we know there are both good and bad bacteria in our mouths and the kind of bacteria in a mother’s mouth will have an influence on the kind of bacteria that develop in her baby’s digestive tract – and consequently an influence on the development of her baby’s future immune health.
Why Cavities Form During Pregnancy?
Hormone fluctuations trigger changes in the composition of our mouth’s saliva. When saliva becomes acidic it loses its ability to protect and heal our gums and teeth. A woman’s salivary pH is generally far more variable than a man’s and almost all women encounter predictable and consistently acidic saliva during pregnancy.
In the first months of pregnancy hormonal changes can cause feelings of nausea or initiate vomiting. This condition, known as morning sickness, can result in gastric acids entering the mouth. If the damage caused by these acids is not addressed effectively, the acidity will weaken tooth enamel during the first trimester. Acid reflux is also common during pregnancy, bringing similar acids into the mouth, particularly during the last trimester. Gastric acids weaken the outside layer of tooth enamel and creating porosity, which opens entry points for harmful cavity-forming bacteria. Cavity-forming bacteria can quickly multiply in these areas and create more acidic damage to the tooth structure, leading to cavities between teeth or in the surface crevices. Acid weakened enamel can also allow fillings to loosen and result in tooth fracture or a darkening of your tooth color.
Don’t Brush Acid-Softened Teeth!
It’s important to counter the negative consequences of mouth acidity but avoid the use of baking soda – even though it is alkaline. Decades of working with pregnant women have alerted me to serious gum recession that can result from the use of baking soda. This is because it can strip teeth of special proteins that are protective and vital for oral health and the remineralization of damaged enamel.
Also, avoid the urge to brush your teeth after a vomiting episode. Acid-softened teeth are soft and easily abraded by tooth brushing or the use of certain oral care products. Brushing acid-softened teeth is a frequent cause of tooth erosion at the sides of molar teeth, which can result in gum recession and painful tooth sensitivity. It is not your brushing technique that is wrong and don’t blame your toothbrush for enamel erosion. The problem is brushing over the top of previously acid-softened teeth.
The Correct Way to Counter (and Prevent) Acidic Damage.
To eliminate a bad taste or negate acidity in your mouth – especially after vomiting or acid reflux - enjoy a couple of Zellie’s mints (cherry berry or spearmint are mild flavors that can freshen your breath and help to calm your stomach). These mints will help to counter your mouth’s acidity by stimulating a flow of more alkaline saliva into your mouth. This saliva can help to buffer the acids and provide minerals can help rescue demineralized enamel and reverse damage caused by stomach acids or acidic saliva.
If you want to clean your teeth, I recommend my Complete Mouth Care System because it is specifically designed to help acidic mouths, leave your breath fresh, and create conditions that favor mouth health, tooth mineralization, and enamel repair.
Don’t Accept Bleeding Gums During Pregnancy!
The ADA reports a staggering 60-75% of mothers experience gingivitis during pregnancy. This gum irritation called gingivitis is caused by toxins or liquids that diffuse out of plaque and irritate the gums to make them turn red, swollen or bleed when they are touched or brushed.
Gingivitis can be completely resolved, at home, within a few days, with my simple “gingivitis strategies”. Whenever gingivitis is not addressed quickly it can easily precipitate a far more serious gum condition. This explains why pregnant women should never leave gingivitis unresolved or accept such a thing as “bleeding gums” or “pink toothbrush” during pregnancy. The risk for future periodontal disease, tooth loss, and associated systemic body inflammation that is associated with periodontal problems is too great.
Anyone who notices their gums bleeding when they brush has this gum irritation called gingivitis. Untreated, gingivitis can become more serious and involve the progressive destruction of the minuscule fibers that attach our gums tightly to our teeth. This loosening creates a periodontal pocket and is often associated with jawbone loss and eventually the loosening of teeth.
My “Gingivitis Strategies" Quickly Resolve Gingivitis
Bleeding gums may seem scary, but please don’t avoid brushing this area when you clean your teeth. Avoiding the bleeding area will allow the irritation to get worse and remain for longer until it turns into a non-bleeding but more serious condition.
Resolution is quick and not at all painful if you gently massage the gums in this area –on the inside and outside of your jaw, all around the area involved. Yes, this may cause your gums to bleed but simply rinse any blood out of your mouth – ideally with the specific rinses of my Complete Mouth Care System.
Five to seven days of good brushing, using a clean and well-designed toothbrush + my system of care, should resolve any bleeding completely and leave your gums healthy and pink. When gingivitis and bleeding gums are resolved with this kind of home care, you’ll avoid the serious complications of periodontal disease. Here is a link to a video about how to select a good toothbrush and how to perform good gum massage.
I never recommend flossing, especially if you have gum disease or gingivitis. Floss has the potential to push bacteria into your blood as you work around the gums and cause a condition called a bacteremia. Many kinds of floss have been found to contain toxic carcinogens. Studies show that good toothbrushing is as effective as flossing for plaque removal and eliminates this risk to health. (Harvard School of Public Health report about toxins in floss.)
Periodontal Disease - A Serious Gum Problem
Coincidental risk factors can create perfect storm conditions that result in periodontal gum disease during pregnancy. Acidic mouth conditions allow harmful periodontal bacteria to flourish and without an effective strategy to eliminate plaque and control anaerobic pathogens, many women find they experience periodontal problems and pocketing around their teeth in the years following pregnancy.
Pockets occur when gingivitis is allowed to continue unresolved. Space opens up to form a gap between the gums and the tooth surface. Health-damaging bacteria – called periodontal pathogens – flourish in these spaces because these bacteria enjoy low oxygen conditions. Anaerobic periodontal pathogens do not cause gum swelling or pain, but they create areas of ulceration under the gums which allows them to gain entry (or the entry of their toxins) into your blood, gums tissues or bone in the areas around your teeth.
Curing Periodontal Disease / Periodontitis
Dentists say periodontal disease cannot be cured, which is why they prescribe antibiotics for temporary relief and recommend deep maintenance cleanings every few months, to scrape inside periodontal pockets and clean away as many bacteria as is mechanically possible. The problem is that deep cleanings have the potential to push pathogens into your blood, and they can be expensive and uncomfortable treatments.
For over a decade I have recommended periodontal pathogen testing and then retested after three or four months to find the high levels of periodontal pathogens have disappeared. There was no need for floss, use antibiotics or have deep cleanings. Subgingival calculus disappeared and the periodontal pockets closed and became healthy. Clients simply used my gum massage technique (with a well-designed brush), Zellie’s mints and gum after every meal daily (to limit plaque) and my Complete Mouth Care System (to target periodontal pathogens, while allowing healthy bacteria to balance mouth health for a sustainable resolution).
The Gift of Healthy Teeth
As a mother of five and a grandmother, I am well aware how much mothers give to their children. One of the most important gifts we can share, in my opinion, is the "gift of healthy teeth". We know the influence of harmful periodontal bacteria in a mother’s mouth during pregnancy and how this gum disease raises her risk for chronic systemic inflammation and risk for pre-term birth.
After birth a mother will continue to exert an influence on her child’s developing oral and digestive microbiome. Studies over 50 years ago illustrated how xylitol could reduce plaque in a mother’s mouth and drastically reduce the risk of cavity-bacteria transfer to her child. About 6-7 grams of xylitol per day is necessary to change the oral ecology, and the change will take a few months to occur. Xylitol appears to feed the good bacteria in our mouths and make harmful plaque slippery so it is more easily washed off teeth with suitable and effective mouth care.
The Transfer of Bacteria from Mother to Baby
Today we are learning more about the wonders of breastfeeding for the development of a baby’s immune system and correct jaw structure. Many pregnant women seem to develop less than ideal eating and drinking habits, which can create more mouth acidity. Add to this additional life stress and lack of sleep and we often create the perfect conditions for poor mouth health. Close interaction between a parent and a baby allows for the natural transfer of the adult mouth bacteria to the child – good or bad. A mother with many cavities can easily transfer these cavity bacteria in saliva droplets and allow plaque to start growing on her baby’s teeth. Early childhood decay is devastating for parents and difficult to treat. The solution is so simple – make a solution of a few xylitol crystals in water and wipe this over erupting baby teeth anytime during the day.
In a Nutshell
Moms have often never been told about the importance of their own oral health and the impact that bad oral health can have on their bodies and on the future oral health of their children. Although dental cleanings and periodontal care have been determined safe during pregnancy, they cannot change the oral ecology or help pregnant women effectively improve their oral health. This is something that must be done daily, at home, and I recommend Zellie’s xylitol mints and gum to feed good bacteria and the use of my Complete Mouth Care System to control periodontal pathogens and cavity bacteria. To prevent gum irritation and stimulate gum healing I recommend gum massage with a good toothbrush that is stored safely away from a toilet area.
Don’t accept that a mouth deteriorates during pregnancy – this doesn’t have to happen! Use my strategies to promote a healthy mouth ecology and balance the stresses of mouth acidity that occur during pregnancy.
Visit Zellies.com to learn more about xylitol and how to use Zellie's dental mints and gum for oral health.
Books by Dr. Ellie: Mouth Care Comes Clean and Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye
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