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Dr. Christopher S. Baird

Why do women get more tooth problems during pregnancy?

Category: Health      Published: April 13, 2013

By: Christopher S. Baird, author of The Top 50 Science Questions with Surprising Answers and Associate Professor of Physics at West Texas A&M University

Perhaps you have heard the old adage "gain a baby, lose a tooth". In this particular case, the old adage ends up being true, and the culprit is hormones. According to the Mayo Clinic, the higher levels of progesterone and estrogen in the mother's body help the baby grow but these hormones also weaken the bones and ligaments that anchor the teeth. Furthermore, these hormonal changes increase acid levels in the mother's mouth, which can lead to tooth decay. The mother's gums will also tend to swell and bleed in response to progesterone, making them open to infection. The softening, loosening effect of the pregnancy hormones are good for the baby as they allow the baby to descend during birth with minimal constriction. But these effects are not as good on the mother's teeth. Additionally, as a JCEM journal article by Christopher S. Kovacs makes clear, the mother's hormones divert calcium away from her own bones and towards the developing bones of the baby. Pregnant mothers therefore have lower levels of calcium in their system, which can make for weaker bones and teeth. Some women are less sensitive to hormonal changes and will not experience worsening teeth and gum conditions. While good oral hygiene can minimize problems, the deleterious effects of pregnancy on oral health are not completely unavoidable. Worse teeth are simply part of the sacrifice that women make to bring a child into the world.

Topics: oral hygiene, pregnancy, progesterone, teeth, tooth, tooth decay