The internet has introduced me to all of the unspoken side effects of pregnancy that I knew very little about. Each is a strange combination of horrifying and amazing, considering how human bodies were built to endure this and continue to endure this on a regular basis. But most recently, I was introduced to a new regular in pregnant people's lives: losing teeth.
This factoid was brought to me by a mom of three who goes by Gigi Naturally. In a video viewed by 300,000 stunned souls (including myself), Gigi points to a gap in her teeth while saying, "You see this tooth right here? Lost it in my last pregnancy and it's just too expensive to replace."
"The two I lost in my other two pregnancies are on this side, and this bridge cost $10,000," she continued. "Pregnancy isn't just the cost of the pregnancy and the cost of the children, but the cost of getting healthy again afterwards [as well]."
Though she makes light of the situation by joking about it taking two years for her to pay off the bills associated with her first two dental surgeries and laughs about choosing to live with the third gap instead of spending more money on her mouth, I couldn't help but think...HOW? WHY? WHAT?
When speaking to Gigi about her experience, the 30-year-old told me that despite taking prenatal vitamins and eating as healthy as she could, "the first two became loose over time [during pregnancy] and eventually needed to be pulled due to the gums around them being swollen and inflamed," she said. "The third tooth broke while eating a hard candy and needed to be pulled afterwards."
This tracks with the medical insight offered to BuzzFeed by board-certified OB-GYN Dr. Christine Sterling, who shared: "One of the most common causes of tooth loss both in and out of pregnancy is periodontitis, a severe gum infection that, without treatment, can lead to loss of the bone that supports your teeth."
According to Healthline, periodontitis starts as gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, and will cause the gum line to recede and create pockets between your gums and teeth. Often, these pockets will begin to house bacteria, deepening the infection, and leading to symptoms that include bleeding during flossing, bad breath, changes in your teeth's positioning, pain while chewing, and more.
Consider, for a moment, whether you've ever noticed a spec of blood on your floss string. Whether in its early stages or late, having some form of periodontal disease is quite common. In fact, the CDC reports that about 47.2% of adults over the age of 30 are experiencing this as we speak.
Coupled with this commonly found inflammation, Dr. Sterling added, "The hormones of pregnancy can increase inflammation in the gums and loosen the ligaments and bones that support the teeth, making them more prone to loss."
But there are preventative measures pregnant people can take. Dr. Sterling said, "Periodontitis can be prevented with regular brushing with fluoridated toothpaste, flossing, and periodic (at least every 6 months) professional cleanings and evaluations at the dentist."
For many in the comments section of Gigi's video, who are naturally bound to exist in one of the above demographics, news of tooth loss during pregnancy is a new concept.
And that's exactly why Gigi decided to share her story. "I believe that so little is openly known about pregnancy side effects because a lot of it is embarrassing to talk about," she said. "So if we aren't publicly talking about it, a lot will just be a secret."
If you'd like to learn more about pregnancy, you can follow Dr. Sterling on Instagram or listen to her Becoming Moms podcast.