Ask The Dentist: How morning sickness can destroy your teeth

Dentist Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast explains how morning sickness can have a devastating effect on the teeth of mums-to-be

Morning sickness-induced vomiting can wreck teeth in the long-term
Lucy Stock

WHOEVER came up with the term 'morning sickness' was slightly off the mark, as I found out during my pregnancies – it was more like 'morning, afternoon, night-time, elevenses and afternoon tea' sickness.

The waves of nausea and vomiting can not only leave a pregnant woman feeling less than blooming but continually bringing up stomach acid can wreck teeth in the long-term.

Around 80 per cent of pregnant women suffer from morning sickness which seems to hit a peak at around nine to 10 weeks and generally starts to improve after the 14-week mark.

Nobody really knows what causes it, but experts believe high levels of circulating hormones are to blame.Stomach acid or gastric acid is a super-strong acid which has a pH of between one and three, similar to battery acid. In fact, if you were to put a drop of stomach acid on a piece of wood, it would eat right through it. So it's no surprise that bathing your teeth in gastric acid intermittently throughout the day does not leave them in a good state.

Constant morning sickness, especially if it is the severe form of the condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum, can dissolve tooth enamel leaving teeth overly smooth, pitted, yellow, sensitive and worn looking.

Often, snacking on things throughout the day is used to try and keep the sickness at bay. This acts as a double whammy for the teeth as, not only are they are under tidal wave acid attacks, but then they also have to deal with sporadic sugar bombs.

Ideally, at the end of pregnancy you want to end up with the baby and your teeth, so to minimize the effects of acid you can try putting a slim retainer over your teeth just before you vomit: timing is obviously of the essence.

After you are sick, avoid tooth brushing as the teeth will have been softened and then the bristles can cause more damage. Instead, rinse with a fluoride mouthwash or water. You can also eat something alkaline afterwards to counteract the effect of the acid, like cheese.

When you are brushing your teeth use a fluoride toothpaste – remineralisation toothpastes are especially effective. It’s best to brush and then spit out the toothpaste but don’t rinse with water afterwards as you want to leave the toothpaste to seep into the teeth and harden them up. Make sure you clean between the teeth as well to remove any lurking particles that are a potential picnic to enamel-eating bacteria.

Finally, visit the dentist during your pregnancy to ensure everything is on track.

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