Cavities During Pregnancy: Risks, Prevention, and Treatment

Cavities during pregnancy are an issue that deserves your attention. Take care of your diet and dental hygiene and be sure to see a dentist.
Cavities During Pregnancy: Risks, Prevention, and Treatment
Vanesa Evangelina Buffa

Reviewed and approved by the dentist Vanesa Evangelina Buffa.

Last update: 27 February, 2023

Pregnancy brings about many changes in a woman’s entire body. Therefore, during pregnancy, the oral cavity is at an increased risk of diseases, such as tooth decay. Keep reading to learn more about cavities during pregnancy.

Bacteria in the mouth metabolize sugars in the diet and produce acids that demineralize and destroy the teeth. This process is what we know as tooth decay. The hormonal, physical, and behavioral changes that occur during pregnancy have a negative impact on oral health and increase the risk of cavities.

Find out why cavities are more common during pregnancy, how you can prevent them, and what to do if they develop while you are expecting your baby.

Why are cavities during pregnancy more common?

Cavities are a multifactorial disease that causes the loss of minerals from the teeth and their consequent destruction. Although this process can develop in any person and at any age, the changes inherent to pregnancy favor its appearance. This is due to the confluence of several situations:

  • Hormonal changes: The increase in estrogens and progestogens causes a greater blood flow throughout the body, including the gums. It’s common for pregnant women to develop gingivitis, have swollen gums, and experience bleeding of the gums. And with this, bacterial plaque and tartar accumulate, which favors the development of cavities during pregnancy.
  • Vomiting, nausea, and reflux: These symptoms, which are characteristic of the first and third trimesters of pregnancy, increase the acidity of the oral environment. A mouth with a pH that’s more acidic than normal favors the appearance of cavities.
  • Poor dental hygiene: Nausea, vomiting and the discomfort caused by swollen gums can cause pregnant women to neglect their oral hygiene. Bacterial plaque builds up and increases the risk of tooth decay.
  • Cravings and poor diet: Some pregnant women change their eating habits and feel the need to consume unhealthy products that can become harmful to the mouth. A higher intake of sweets, sugars, soft drinks, or acidic substances favors the proliferation of bacteria.
  • Changes in saliva: During pregnancy, saliva production may decrease and the composition and pH of saliva may change. With this, the protective and regulatory functions of this fluid decrease, which favors bacterial growth.
The changes inherent to pregnancy can favor the appearance of cavities. Tooth sensitivity, pain, tooth fractures, or bad breath are some of the symptoms that can be experienced with this condition.

What do cavities look like and what are the symptoms?

Cavities are lesions in the hard tissues of the teeth that cause different symptoms depending on the degree of advancement of the disease. As soon as the demineralization process begins, the damage is seen as a dry white spot on the surface of the tooth enamel. If the process isn’t treated in a timely manner, the lesion progresses in depth. With this, the woman, apart from seeing her teeth stained or broken, will feel some discomfort:

  • Sensitivity to cold, hot, acidic, or sweet foods
  • Tooth pain spontaneously or when chewing
  • Infections that cause pain and swelling of the gums, face, or neck
  • Bad breath and bad taste in the mouth
  • Tooth fractures or breaks

The treatment of cavities during pregnancy: Is it possible?

Treating cavities during pregnancy is essential to avoid mishaps. If the pregnant woman has pain, infection, or any other dental emergency, it should be treated immediately. It should be taken into account that dental pain can cause contractions and untreated infections can spread to other parts of the body and generate fever. This increases the risk of miscarriages, premature births, and low birth weight.

When dental treatment can be started

When the pregnant woman develops cavities, but these don’t produce any symptoms or complications, treatment can be scheduled for the second trimester. This stage of pregnancy is considered the most appropriate for any dental treatment, including fillings. At this time, local anesthesia can be applied and the necessary products can be used to restore the teeth.

When to avoid interventions

In general, if it’s not an emergency, it’s preferable to avoid dental interventions during the first trimester of pregnancy. In addition, whenever possible, X-rays should be avoided. In any case, you should know that, with proper protection, the doses of radiation used in dental offices are safe during pregnancy.

If cavities are detected in the last trimester, the dentist will assess whether it’s convenient to treat the disease at that time or wait until after delivery. This is because the end of pregnancy is again a period in which dental interventions should be avoided.

Good dental hygiene is essential to prevent the development of cavities. Also, you should pay attention to your diet and visit the dentist regularly.

How to prevent cavities during pregnancy?

The best way to avoid cavities during pregnancy is to pay attention to your diet, take care of your dental hygiene, and attend dental check-ups. Here are some tips to help you keep your mouth healthy during pregnancy:

  • Visit the dentist before becoming pregnant: If you’re planning to become pregnant, it’s important to visit the dentist and undergo all the necessary treatments in order to leave your mouth in optimal condition before conception.
  • Brush your teeth frequently: It’s key to clean your teeth and gums with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste at least three times a day. Nausea or sensitivity shouldn’t be an excuse to neglect hygiene.
  • Use dental floss to remove bacteria that accumulate between the teeth. An irrigator can make it easier to clean the gums when they’re very inflamed.
  • Choose a balanced and healthy diet: Food should provide sufficient protein, vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and folic acid. Healthy alternatives to cravings should be sought and the intake of products with a high sugar content, such as sweets, pastries, and soft drinks, should be reduced as much as possible.
  • Dental check-ups: Ideally, a complete dental check-up should be carried out at the beginning of pregnancy to detect possible problems. In this way, it’ll be possible to plan approaches in advance and anticipate complications. In general, a check-up is recommended every trimester.

Take care of your oral health to avoid cavities during pregnancy and other complications

It’s true that pregnancy increases the risk of developing diseases in the mouth, such as cavities. However, if you pay attention to your diet and dental hygiene and visit the dentist frequently, your teeth can remain healthy throughout your pregnancy.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.