There’s no escaping it, my teeth are not what they used to be. The thousands of dollars my parents poured into orthodontics has pretty much gone to waste.
Why? Because somewhere after I had children those pearly little whites steadily began to cave. And as research would have it (AKA a chat with other mums at a recent birthday party), turns out I’m not alone. As much as they make you smile, children truly wreck your teeth. Here’s how…
You know that hormone that kicks in just prior to the birth of a baby? The one that makes your feet flatten, your pelvis relax and a whole host of other miraculous expansions occur?
Innocuously named relaxin, this helpful little hormone is set to make you tense long after the arrival of your bright, beautiful bub. Not only does relaxin soften the ligaments in your hips (thank you for that small mercy), it can also impact the periodontal ligament, which is pretty much the ligament that keeps your teeth nice and straight.
The upshot is, in the weeks prior to and post having a baby, many women find their teeth begin to shift. For those of us who had braces, it might even see those little suckers seek to return to where they were pre-teens.
Sorry to bring this up again (pun totally intended) but that morning sickness and reflux you endured during pregnancy might still be repeating on your teeth.
Basically, the acid involved with reflux and vomiting can attack your teeth enamel and unless you were hyper-diligent about rinsing and cleaning, it could lead to increased cavities post birth.
Ever wake in the morning with a sore jaw and headache? Or perhaps your partner nudges you in the night, politely requesting you clench your teeth with slightly less volume than a freight train. The likelihood is that’s good old-fashioned teeth grinding.
For some women teeth grinding, or bruxism increases during pregnancy and after birth due to the physical, physiological, emotional and hormonal changes associated with motherhood.
And no, it’s not so great for your teeth. Prolonged teeth grinding can lead to wear, cracking and decay.
It’s pretty well known that the risk of gum disease increases during pregnancy.
It might see your gums bleed more readily during brushing, or be a sign you have untreated periodontal disease, and it’s attributed to the fact increased hormone levels reduce your body’s ability to combat the effects of plaque.
Gum problems during pregnancy are nothing to smile about either. Gum disease is linked to premature births and low birth weights, along with other potential health problems.
Cue the violins…we all appreciate that after having children your health and wellbeing can slip to the bottom of the to-do list. That may mean in the months after birth you were a little less attentive to your oral hygiene, or the annual date with your dentist slipped by without a thought.
But it shouldn’t. Recent Australian Government research indicates Australians aged over 15 have on average 12.8 decayed, missing or filled teeth. That number increases rapidly as we age with those aged 75 and over having on average 24.2 missing, decayed or filled teeth.
Your teeth might be a little more cracked, crooked, less than pearly or not quite what they used to be and children may be partly to blame. But the likelihood is we’ll grin, bear it and visit the dentist more regularly because those little funny, quirky, tiny people we bring into the world sure do make you smile!
Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer with 20 years’ journalism experience. She loves a good old-fashioned story and getting to the heart of a great yarn. She’s also a mum to three children who have encouraged her to hone some secret skills. Nimbly navigating Lego pieces left on her lounge room floor and creating stylish Barbie attire from all manner of household objects are just a couple of credentials she’s recently added to her resume.