Can Pregnancy Make Your Teeth Fall Out?

It's especially important to practice optimal oral hygiene during pregnancy to avoid cavities and gingivitis.

Nausea, vomiting, constipation, heartburn, varicose veins. Pregnancy can bring about a whole batch of uncomfortable symptoms. And those changes affect nearly every part of your body—including your teeth.

According to a study published in 2019 in PLoS One, ideas about tooth loss during pregnancy are widespread throughout many societies and cultures. But is it true that pregnancy can result in your teeth falling out?

Here's what you need to know about how pregnancy affects oral health.

Woman brushing her teeth.
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Can Pregnancy Make Your Teeth Fall Out?

"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," Dmitry Malayev, DDS, a licensed dentist based in New York, told Health.

According to Dr. Malayev, it is highly unlikely that pregnancy itself would cause teeth to fall out. A plausible situation, if that happens, is that there are other underlying conditions present.

"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," Elizabeth Laborde, DDS, a licensed pediatric dentist based in Texas, added.

And specifically regarding tooth decay, Dr. Malayev reported that it takes a longer time than pregnancy to develop before any real damage becomes noticeable.

"On average, when [tooth decay] begins, it can take upward of four to six years to penetrate through the enamel," Dr. Malayev said. "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."

There are several reasons that people may experience tooth loss or tooth decay. Per the National Library of Medicine, some of the more common causes are poor oral hygiene; poor dietary and lifestyle habits, like smoking or chewing tobacco; drugs; undiagnosed or untreated dental diseases, like periodontal diseases; inability to visit the dentist regularly; and physical trauma.

"There are many other underlying health issues that can contribute," Dr. Malayev said. "It is almost never just one reason alone for tooth loss, especially when all teeth in the mouth need to come out."

Common Oral Health Issues During Pregnancy

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 60% to 75% of pregnant people experience gingivitis, which occurs when the gums become inflamed due to hormonal changes during pregnancy.

"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, DDS, a cosmetic dentist and co-founder of Spotlight Oral Care in Galway, Ireland, told Health.

If untreated, gingivitis can cause gum infections, which increases the risk of tooth loss, Meleen Chuang, MD, clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, told Health.

And according to the March of Dimes, pregnancy can make your teeth feel looser than normal. That's due to high levels of progesterone and estrogen in your body. The elevated amount of hormones can temporarily loosen the tissues and bones that hold your teeth in place. But that does not lead to tooth loss, though it can be alarming.

How To Take Care of Your Teeth During Pregnancy

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), being pregnant also increases your risk of developing cavities. But that is not due to the pregnancy. Rather, it may be due to morning sickness, which increases acidic exposure in the mouth, or changes in eating habits.

"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 explained. "Unfortunately, the long-term damage is not immediately seen as it erodes the enamel from the backs of the teeth first."

If you suffer from morning sickness, Dr. Creaven recommended avoiding brushing your teeth immediately after vomiting and instead rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash to help restore lost enamel.

Changes in eating habits during pregnancy, such as late-night snacking or chewing on ice, can also increase the risk of cavities, Dr. Chuang revealed.

"One in four [cisgender women] who are of childbearing age have cavities that they don't even know about," Dr. Chuang told Health. "This is why going to the dentist [during] pregnancy is so important."

It's possible that you end up neglecting optimal oral health habits—including brushing your teeth twice per day and flossing once per day—during pregnancy. Again, that can happen due to morning sickness, tender gums, exhaustion, or a more sensitive gag reflex.

A Quick Review

So, even if pregnancy does not singlehandedly cause tooth loss, taking care of your teeth is still essential. Healthcare providers agree that staying on top of your oral hygiene during pregnancy is crucial.

"The [ADA] recommends that pregnant women eat a balanced diet and brush their teeth thoroughly with fluoride toothpaste twice a day, and floss daily," Dr. Chuang noted.

And don't forget those dental visits to curb any issues with your oral health, like gingivitis, before they turn into periodontal disease.

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