One of the things that can happen during pregnancy is the engorgement of tissues such as gums and the increase in sensitivity of teeth. There is actually a name for this: "red brush syndrome". It isn't an official name of course, but now you know. I have definitely noticed a slightly higher propensity for my gums to bleed, and I have tried to be a little gentler with my oral hygiene as a result. So, it was with some trepidation that I went off to the dentist this morning for my annual checkup. As per usual for me, everything in my mouth was "perfect" (that's a quote from my dentist btw), but I will say that I felt a little tender afterwards. On a positive note, I was able to ask the hygienist some questions and she was able to dispel some "old wives tales" (yet another quote), and provide some information. For Rebecca, I wanted to know when children are first supposed to visit the dentist. Apparently - age three. Prior to that time, they are supposed to use special baby toothpaste and baby tootbrushes. They are NOT supposed to use toothpaste which contains fluoride, because the concentration is too high (and ixnay on the whitening agents of course). This information is actually on the tube in very fine print (in fact, I think it says not to use it if you are under 12). At any rate, this prompted me to ask about fluoridation in our water - and I was told this was not a concern. They actually gave me a toothbrush for Rebecca when I was leaving - and it's pretty adorable. For myself, I wanted to know about the dental problems that can arise during pregnancy. The wife of one of my grad school friends had tremendous cavity problems during pregnancy despite a lack of previous troubles. I had also heard about people just plain losing molars (dissolving???) during pregnancy. The hygienist informed me that there are a lot of these types of rumours that go around. Damage to teeth can occur secondary to morning sickness due to repeated exposure to stomach acids (the same for gagging). This seemed fairly logical - when I took pathological chemistry, this was certainly cited as a frequent problem in cases of bulemia. Also, those experiencing morning sickness often consume unusually large amounts of gingerale (added sugar) or have trouble effectively cleaning teeth near the back of their mouths due to the gag reflex. And of course, there is an increased requirement for calcium during pregnancy which should not be ignored. She also mentioned that with the fatigue and the freaky sleep schedule, sometimes women would miss out on brushing their teeth, which doesn't help the situation. Apart from that, I did discuss the increased bleeding with her and she told me that the experience is very common. In fact, this was the thing that made her suspect she was pregnant! As a hygienist, she naturally flosses like a masochist, and has numbed her gums to pain and bleeding. One day, she noticed bleeding when she flossed - and since it was so unsual for her, it made her wonder if she was pregnant.
The bottom line is - for pregnant women, it's a catch-22. If you are too gentle or avoid taking the necessary measures due to your increased sensitivity or bleeding, you actually make the situation worse. Therefore - just suck it up (this seems to be a theme with pregnancy). Eventually the baby will arrive, and some of these issues will disappear.