The physical and hormonal changes of pregnancy bring with them a whole host of interesting, frequently irritating and sometimes confusing symptoms. Among these, some women get toothaches or experience other dental concerns while pregnant. Not only do these add to the discomfort of pregnancy, they can be a sign that a woman needs to visit her dentist.
Toothaches during pregnancy can happen for any number of reasons. Pregnant women, like everyone else, get routine dental irritations and can have tooth or gum pain unrelated to pregnancy. However, note Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel in their book "What To Expect When You're Expecting," pregnant women also have high hormone levels that make their gums more sensitive and porous than usual. This can lead to increased likelihood of gum and tooth irritation, and toothache.
Whether a toothache is a problem or simply a discomfort depends upon the cause and severity of the symptoms. While many pregnant women will experience temporary, mild tooth discomfort as a result of pregnancy hormones, notes Dr. Raymond Poliakin in his book "What You Didn't Think To Ask Your Obstetrician," it's not normal for pregnancy to bring on severe tooth pain. Dr. Poliakin recommends women with a severe toothache visit a dentist.
The American Academy of Periodontology notes that dental concerns--particularly gum concerns--during pregnancy affect more than just the mother. In fact, bacterial infections of the gums that commonly cause symptoms of soreness and the feeling of a toothache can actually cause bacteria to get into the bloodstream. Some of these can cross the placenta, leading to infection of the uterus and its precious contents. Gum and tooth disease during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of miscarriage and preterm delivery.
To prevent dental problems and toothaches, pregnant women should visit a dentist near the beginning of their pregnancies to ensure that everything is healthy, Dr. Poliakin notes. Since most dentists advise patients to come in every six months for a checkup, a pregnant woman will need to visit the dentist again near the start of her third trimester. She should also brush and floss regularly, being aware that it's normal for pregnant gums to bleed a little more than usual, and that this is not a sign of anything wrong.
Toothaches are often treated with over-the-counter pharmaceutical remedies, analgesic drugs and numbing gels. Murkoff and Mazel note that many drugs which are perfectly safe for non-pregnant women aren't necessarily advisable during pregnancy, and they recommend that women always contact their obstetrician prior to using any medication. While a woman should verify that her obstetrician is comfortable with any medication before using it, most obstetricians do allow pregnant women to use acetaminophen, or Tylenol, for pain relief.
- “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”; Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel; 2008
- “What You Didn’t Think to Ask Your Obstetrician”; Raymond Poliakin, M.D.; 2007