When you’re pregnant, you expect physical changes. That’s part of the excitement of the journey! What isn’t expected—and not nearly as exciting—is when your familiar smile seems to be changing as well.
If you’ve noticed that your teeth feel loose, or that your regular tooth alignment has shifted, you might be experiencing one of the unexpected, but quite common, side effects of pregnancy—tooth mobility.
How is this “wiggle room” possible? After all, you’re making sure that you’re eating a diet rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, including calcium, vitamin D, and all the other nutrients which keep teeth and gums healthy. You’re brushing and flossing regularly to prevent cavities and gum disease. You haven’t changed your healthy dental habits, so why are you seeing different results?
The answer lies in the hormonal changes that occur with pregnancy. Your body has significantly increased production of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and relaxin. One of the benefits of these higher hormonal levels is their relaxing effect on your ligaments and joints. Relaxed ligaments and joints help make pregnancy and childbirth easier.
But you can’t target hormones just where they’ll be most useful. An increase in hormones affects the ligaments and joints throughout your body. And while this explanation might seem unrelated to loose teeth, it is, in fact, the “root” of the matter.
A complex support system holds our teeth securely in their sockets. Instead of being rigidly fused to the jaw, each tooth root is surrounded by a periodontal ligament within the socket. This ligament is largely made of flexible connective tissue, and attaches to both the root of the tooth and the bone tissue of the jaw, holding the tooth in place. Its flexibility helps cushion your tooth from pressure and impact, and allows the tooth movement that makes orthodontic work possible.
The hormones that relax ligaments and joints throughout the body have that same relaxing effect on the flexible ligaments and joints in the mouth. So it’s not uncommon to find that your teeth feel a bit looser, or that your customary tooth alignment has shifted, or that you’re experiencing discomfort in your jaw joint, especially if you grind or clench your teeth.
All of this can be a bit worrying, but you can minimize your dental concerns during pregnancy.
- Call the doctor when you first learn about your pregnancy. We can offer suggestions for caring for yourself and your dental health during this exciting time.
- Keep up with your dental hygiene. Brushing and flossing are more important than ever to keep your gums healthy.
- Because your gums might be more prone to gingivitis (early gum disease), extra cleanings as needed can keep plaque buildup from forming.
- Don’t forget your regular appointments for exams and cleanings, to help prevent any small problems from becoming larger ones.
Fortunately, while loose teeth are alarming, it’s most often only a temporary condition. Your teeth and ligaments should return to their normal, stable status after your baby is born. But because dental health can have an impact on pregnancy, see your dentist if you notice any changes in your smile. You want to rule out any other causes of tooth mobility, including gum disease. So, here’s one last important tip:
- If your dentist recommends that you see the doctor for loose teeth or gum disease, make an appointment.
Those increased pregnancy hormones also increase your risk of periodontal disease. Be on the watch for early symptoms of gingivitis such as redness, swelling, pain, tenderness, bleeding, and bad breath. Gingivitis is often reversible and can be treated by your dentist.
If your dentist suspects more serious gum disease, a timely visit to a specialist in the treatment and care of your gums is a must. Periodontitis (advanced gum disease) causes infection and inflammation that can damage gum issue, ligament, and even bone. A periodontist like the doctor can determine if your loose teeth have been caused by gum disease, and can suggest safe and effective treatments to restore your tooth and gum health.
Pregnancy is a time of many physical changes. Our Hilton Head Island, South Carolina periodontal team will work with you to ensure that one thing that remains constant is your beautiful, healthy smile!