Destined for problem teeth?
August 20, 2009 6:14 AM   Subscribe

What will REALLY happen when I get pregnant if I have poor oral health?

I keep reading about how you need to get all your dental work taken care of before you get pregnant or during your first trimester (or whatever the designated window is).
The fact of the matter is I have awful quality (but great cosmetically) teeth. It's always been this way. As a child, I did regular cleanings and had cavities taken care of as needed. I definitely didn't keep up with brushing and flossing as much as I should've but what adolescent does?

But from high school on I was great about brushing (still not awesome about flossing) and I still repeatedly would get cavity after cavity. I've had a root canal experience go completely awful with an infection and I then had all four wisdoms yanked and experienced terrible dry socket which -- seriously, WORST pain of my life.
Now I'm 25. I have no insurance but I sucked it up and paid out of pocket for a cleaning and exam last summer. I still have cavities to be taken care of but didn't have the money to at the time. I realize I should've just gotten them fixed and gotten put on a payment plan BUT I didn't, and whatever. I gotta get them done.
Last week I had two old fillings break so I've been puttering around for a week with holes in two of my back teeth, frantically brushing constantly and rinsing. I'm going tonight to have them looked at to see what my options are.

I'm just wondering, or more I guess ... I'm petrified that I'm going to get pregnant a few years from now and my teeth, no matter their condition, are going to like rot away. My grandmother told me after she had her kids her teeth just basically went to shit and she ended up needing a bunch extracted and eventually she had dentures. I realize this was like 50 years ago so we've come along way with dental care.

Any dentists or people with first hand experience?
When I find out tonight what the situation is -- do I have to get everything taken care of and fixed up to avoid a monstrosity of the teeth when I eventually get pregnant?

Any women have stories about dental stuff and pregnancy?

posted by mittenbex to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, I have terrible teeth despite flossing and brushing and I had a terrible time when I was pregnant with all sorts of horrid procedures. My teeth weren't up to par going in, and then some things couldn't be done when I was pregnant because I needed great quantities of painkillers and/or antibiotics and whatnot. And I had insurance.

Three things come to mind:

One, get your teeth in order before getting pregnant, if at all humanly possible. Anything existing will get worse. Don't dick around with this because time is not on your side. As you discovered from your root canal, waiting on anything makes the outcome much worse.
Two, when you do get pregnant, get your teeth cleaned immediately and then again midway through, and maybe even a third time. Really.
Three, Try not to get pregnant without insurance, dental or otherwise. I know maybe that's not an option for you for whatever reason, but there's no need to rush into having a baby at 25. Not having insurance suggests that perhaps you aren't in a settled enough place in your life to think about this right now. I know, maybe you really want to, but maybe it's not the greatest idea. Just a thought.

Anyway, there's an old adage, 'for every child you lose a tooth'. Horrific, but in my case, unfortunately, true. So, if you've got a vulnerable set of teeth like I do, and it sounds like you do, you need to be twice as careful as everybody else and everybody else who's pregnant needs to be twice as careful as they normally would be.

It's a really nice accompaniment to the exhaustion, heartburn, and rollicking hormones.

Good times.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:27 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just realized how horrible that whole thing sounded and wanted to add something a little more positive: at 25, you're way ahead of where I was in terms of acknowledging that you have problem teeth and learning how to deal with them. Some people just do have problem teeth, and that's the way it goes. Figuring out how to care for them early is really, really smart.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:30 AM on August 20, 2009

You really gotta floss... every night before bed.

I used to only brush really well with my Sonicare toothbrush 3 minutes a shot and thought it did a amazing job cleaning everything. But I still ended up with cavities. What worked for me is after I brushed I would floss it would remove gobs of gunk daily - even though I thought my teeth were throughly cleaned from just brushing. Think of that gunk rotting away at your teeth away every night. That was enough evidence for me to go from flossing 5 times a year to 365x a year.

If you got tight teeth and floss rips, buy Easy Slide or Glide floss... that stuff is amazing.

Oh, and this video will show you how amazing a tooth is, and how vulnerable they can be.
Zoom into a tooth
posted by glenno86 at 6:32 AM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Good oral health is important for many, many reasons, not the least of which is that the demands on your body during pregnancy can cause small problems to escalate. The stuff your body will need to build your baby's teeth and bones can come at the expense of your own teeth and bones, so make sure you are healthy and well nourished before and during your expected pregnancy.
That being said, the world you live in is not the world your grandmother lived in, so there is no reason for you to lose your teeth if you take care of them.
Small dental problems never, ever, ever get better on their own. They are as small now as they are going to be until you get them fixed, so now is the time. As to the expense, without sounding harsh, you should consider how expensive having and raising a child will be relative to making yourself healthy, and perhaps wait until you are healthy to do so. You and your child will benefit.
posted by OHenryPacey at 7:24 AM on August 20, 2009

I just had a baby last year, and while I don't have problem teeth, I do remember that my insurance offered an extra cleaning for women while they're pregnant. So this sort of this is pretty common. I'm willing to bet that it's pretty standard for insurance to offer that to pregnant women. So do take advantage of it when the time comes.
posted by crunchtopmuffin at 7:49 AM on August 20, 2009

I don't know but as noone has mentioned this, is it caused by nutritional deficiencies and could you take supplements or other foods?
posted by Not Supplied at 8:10 AM on August 20, 2009

Predeliction for caries etc. not the same thing as poor dental health. It's all about the condition of your gums, good oral hygiene and proper diet. At least this is what my dentist tells me. I have great gums and he says stellar oral hygiene if only all his patients were as conscientious as I am, but I have had just 2 checkups in 20 years with no cavities and I go twice a year. Keep up the good oral hygiene and the regular checkups and you should be fine. I don't recall any particular dental problems during pregnancy, but then it's been a while. Fortunately my kids seem to have inherited their Dad's excellent teeth. IANAD.
posted by nax at 9:09 AM on August 20, 2009

Huh. I had never heard about connections between teeth and pregnancy and had no problems while pregnant. I did have a regular cleaning while pregnant and they never mentioned anything either. I would have thought the only reason to worry was that your pain threshold was lower.

In any case, you should read the American Dental Association's FAQ on dental health during pregnancy. To begin with, it says that it is a myth that if the baby isn't getting adequate calcium it will take it from your teeth. It will deplete your bones, but not your teeth. It sounds like the hormone levels can cause gum problems, however.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:18 AM on August 20, 2009

Cavities are somewhat of a byproduct of widespread agriculture, as hunter gatherer tribes who do not consume cereal grains and refined sugar basically don't have cavities. More from Dr. Eades.

Vitamin K2 and Vitamin D are two of the big players involved in producing matrix-gla protein and osteocalcin. I have been using this D-3 & K-2 supplement for the past few months, and have already noticed a significant change in the quality of my teeth. The two small newly forming cavities I had no longer appear dark and are difficult to find, and my larger cavity is reduced in appearance and less sensitive to cold/hot and sugary foods.

Also, the rotterdam study suggests regular intake of vitamin k2 will reduce your risk of heart disease.
posted by zentrification at 9:19 AM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

FLOSS. Flossing, I've come to believe, is even more important than brushing. I brush, floss, and then rinse with one of those anti-plaque/ healthy gums products. Also- your vulnerability to cavities does necessarily mean you have bad oral hygiene. There are a lot of other causes for weakened teeth. But, it does mean you should take extra care of your mouth.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 9:27 AM on August 20, 2009

Horribly, some people just have crappy gums and teeth. I've flossed and brushed like a good oral citzen since I was twenty (twenty years ago) and my teeth are crap. I own and use a Sonicare toothbrush and brush for two minutes at a time, I drink about two cans of soda a year and am generally not interested in sweets. I get good nutrition because I like food and like to cook and I'm pretty well educated on the topic, I take calcium and vitamin D. I grew up middle-class-ish with flouride in the water, oral hygiene in school, Mom was a dental hygienist before she had us, etc etc etc. I know how to brush. I know how to use floss properly. But OMG my teeth. Five root canals. Four crowns. Countless cavities. An extraction. An implant. Periodontal disease. They don't look horrible, but they are, the little bastards.

If it's not clear, I'm pretty bitter about it. For years I was the only person I knew who even owned floss, never mind used it every day. Some people just genetically due to hormones or enzymes or whatever have chronic teeth problems, according to my dentist, who's probably just trying to make me feel better.

Anyway, if you're the type of lucky person like me who has these problems, pregnancy does indeed exacerbate them.

(I was actually going to put up an AskMe about this yesterday, which is why I've got my rant all ready. I visit the dentist every four months for cleanings. It's like I live there.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:28 AM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Also, get a mouthwash with fluoride -- ACT is a good one.
posted by amanda at 9:31 AM on August 20, 2009

IMO a lot of it's a toss of the genetics. I don't floss and haven't had a cavity in 20 years. (I also don't eat much sugar or drink sodas, so that maybe helps, but who knows.)
posted by small_ruminant at 9:40 AM on August 20, 2009

I luckily have really good teeth, but can tell you one thing about pregnancy and teeth - you gums might bleed a lot more when you brush your teeth or floss. Which means that when you go to the dentist, the hygienist will seem to think she is murdering you when she does the cleaning and apologize a lot. It doesn't hurt more, just looks like it does.
posted by artychoke at 10:16 AM on August 20, 2009

Flossing, I've come to believe, is even more important than brushing.

Both my dentist and hygienist would agree with you. Floss is apparently one of those things you have to bring with you if you're stranded on a deserted island, because the crap that builds up on your teeth isn't nearly as pernicious as the stuff that builds up between them. Not to mention, gum disease is more dangerous and destructive than the occasional cavity, and brushing doesn't really help your gums (nowhere near as much as flossing, anyway).

Finally, and I know nobody wants to hear this (especially if they're pregnant) but sugar equals cavities. Cut sugars out of your diet and you starve the bacteria that live in your mouth that cause plaque.

Now realistically, sugars are everywhere. But liquid sugars are the worst, and 99% of the time those come in the form of coffee and soda. Sugary liquids literally bathe your teeth in a bacteria-feeding cornucopia because people tend to take little sips and rinse liquids around in their mouths before swallowing.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:38 AM on August 20, 2009

Make sure to be faithful about taking your prenatal vitamins. (Maybe even get on them now knowing you're going to try to conceive.) Remember that what your baby needs that it doesn't get from the food you eat, it will take from you. My mom had great teeth - never had a cavity - before she got pregnant with me, but afterwards she had several cavities.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:30 PM on August 20, 2009

Liquid sugars in coffee? Do you mean if you take sugar in your coffee?

I have stereotypically bad British teeth (TM), and things definitely got worse during both pregnancies, although mainly with gums. Be hardcore about flossing before and during pregnancy. I'm scheduled for gum surgery very soon, they got drastically worse after baby#2, born 3 months ago.
posted by Joh at 7:15 PM on August 20, 2009

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