Nausea, vomiting, constipation, heartburn, varicose veins… the list of pregnancy side effects is a long one. No part of your body is immune, apparently—even your teeth, and one woman's story has people wondering just how much damage pregnancy can do to your oral health.
It all started with a woman named Alicia—who prefers to be known as Princess Glitterhead on social media—after she went viral on TikTok for giving her followers an honest look at her life with snap-in dentures. Through showing people what she looks like with and without her dentures in, she garnered more than 10 million views on a single video.
Princess Glitterhead recently spoke to Buzzfeed, explaining why she got snap-in dentures in the first place. "During my pregnancy, my teeth rapidly began to decay—from the inside out," she told the site. "Both of my eye teeth broke off at the gum line a week or so apart from each other."
She went on to reveal the impact of this on her mental health and self-esteem. "I remember laying in my yard feeling like my life was over," she said. "I would never be respected. I would never be pretty. My husband might leave me. He married me with perfect teeth and within a year I was already missing teeth."
Princess Glitterhead lived with some of her teeth missing for several years. "I never smiled. I stopped talking. I hid my pain," she said. "I was terrified of the dentist and I know I delayed treatment at times. I neglected myself at times. I couldn't get ahead of what was happening. I would go get fillings and root canals that would break right out." She added that when she was 24 and had her second daughter, "a lot more dental issues arose."
When BuzzFeed shared the story on Instagram, there were many mixed reactions. Some people shared similar stories of tooth decay during pregnancy. "I developed hyperemesis with all of my pregnancies," wrote one person in the comments section. "My smile was once beautiful. Now I have zombie teeth. Decayed, chipped and more than half of them missing." Another person commented that she just had her first kid, and despite having "very good oral hygiene before and during my pregnancy, my teeth became loose and weak."
But others—namely dentists—jumped in to set the record straight, including NYC-based general and cosmetic dentist Dmitry Malayev, DDS. "Pregnancy gives way to hormonal changes which can affect the gums more than the teeth themselves, but it has no direct relationship to tooth loss," he tells Health. Elizabeth Laborde, DDS, a board-certified pediatric dentist, also commented: "Dentist here and mother of 3 – this is incredibly misleading. Pregnancy alone does not cause uncontrollable cavities and lead to loss of so many teeth that would require implant supported dentures. This is absolutely an unreasonable conclusion," she said.
So what's really going on here? Can pregnancy lead to the decay and tooth loss that Princess Glitterhead described—or is it possible that something else was going on? Here's what you need to know.
Are dental issues common in pregnant people?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says about 60 to 75% of people who are pregnant get gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease. "This can result in gums bleeding and becoming red and swollen from inflammation, and is caused by changes in progesterone and estrogen levels," Lisa Creaven, an Ireland-based cosmetic dentist and co-founder of Spotlight Oral Care, tells Health.
If left untreated, gingivitis can get bad enough to cause the gums to become infected—which then makes the tooth more likely to become loose and come out, Meleen Chuang, MD, board-certified ob-gyn and medical director of women's health at NYU Langone, tells Health.
According to the March of Dimes, pregnancy can also make your teeth feel looser. That's due to high levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen in your body, which can temporarily loosen the tissues and bones that hold your teeth in place—but that doesn't lead to tooth loss, though it can be alarming.
There's a higher risk for developing cavities during pregnancy too, according to the American Dental Assocation (ADA). But this isn't caused by the pregnancy itself. The ADA says it may be due to a change in eating habits (like eating more carbohydrates than usual) or morning sickness, which can increase acidic exposure in the mouth. "The increased amount of acid in the mouth can wreak havoc on your teeth and damage the enamel on the outside of the tooth," Dr. Creaven explains. "Unfortunately, the long-term damage is not immediately seen as it erodes the enamel from the backs of the teeth first."
If you're suffering from morning sickness, Dr. Creaven recommends avoiding brushing immediately after vomiting and instead rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash to help restore lost enamel.
Other pregnancy eating habits, such as late-night snacking or chewing on ice, can also increase the risk of cavities, Dr. Chuang reveals. "One in four women who are of childbearing age have cavities that they don't even know about," she tell Health. "This is why going to the dentist in pregnancy is so important."
It's possible that good oral health habits—brushing twice a day and flossing once a day—can become neglected during pregnancy. Again, this can happen for a multitude of reasons—morning sickness, tender gums, exhaustion, or a more sensitive gag reflex.
So, can teeth fall out and decay because of pregnancy?
According to Dr. Malayev, it's highly unlikely that pregnancy alone would cause teeth do fall out—the more plausible situation if that happens is that other underlying conditions are present.
Regarding tooth decay specifically, that takes a long time to develop before any real damage takes place. "On average when tooth demineralization (decay) begins, it can take upwards of four to six years to penetrate through the enamel (outer layer of the tooth)," says Dr. Malayev. "Once in the inner layer of the tooth, called dentin, it takes about one to two years to cause havoc to the point where the tooth may need extensive treatment or loss of the tooth [occurs]," he says.
People lose their teeth for all sorts of reasons, Dr. Malayev adds. Some of the more common causes are poor oral hygiene, poor dietary and lifestyle habits (smoking or chewing tobacco), drugs, undiagnosed and/or untreated dental disease (periodontal disease or tooth decay), inability to see the dentist regularly (neglect or phobia), and physical trauma.
"There are many other underlying health issues that can contribute," says Dr. Malayev. "It is almost never just one reason alone for tooth loss, especially when all teeth in the mouth need to come out."
How can you keep your teeth healthy during pregnancy?
Taking care of your teeth is important at every age and stage, of course. But the experts agree that during pregnancy, it's even more crucial to stay on top of your oral hygiene. "The American Dental Association recommends that pregnant women eat a balanced diet, brush their teeth thoroughly with fluoride toothpaste twice a day, and floss daily," Dr. Chuang says.
And don't forget those dental visits. "Much data has shown that regular visits to the dentist while pregnant can prevent gingivitis or dental related problems which can be associated with pregnancy," Dr. Malayev says.
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