Has your body been invaded by an alien (a baby human)?
. . . then this blog post is for you!
I don't think it's any secret that I really like aliens. (Both the Sci-Fi kind and the baby human kind.) I'm not sure if aliens from outer space actually exist; I am a scientist after all, and I simply haven't seen enough evidence to thoroughly convince me one way or the other. But in the words of Fox Mulder from my favorite show The X-Files, "I want to believe."
Still, I know for a fact that this planet has been invaded by a whole different breed of alien for as long as humans have walked the planet: baby humans.
Think about it ladies, a hybrid creature of you and your husband/boyfriend/baby daddy takes up residence inside your body for 9 months, feeding off of your nutrients and using your own blood to sustain itself, wreaking havoc on your body in a multitude of ways, until finally, often unannounced and at an inopportune time, painfully forces its way out of you.
You're never the same after that. It then takes over your house and your life as it demands you feed it (often with the milk it forced your body to produce in anticipation of its birth), clean up its waste products, and make great sacrifices for its comfort and happiness.
That's right, my friends, baby humans are the most invasive of all alien species. They not only make their parental units subservient, they also captivate the lives of everyone around them, turning the most rational and dignified people into complete fools as they bend down and speak guttural noises at this creature, making small offerings of clothing, toys, and food to their new master.
Yes, baby humans are capable of subjugating the entire human race, and they've been doing so for many years. In fact, I'll bet you recognize the hilarious yet oddly disturbing dancing baby here - this baby gif is one of the first Internet memes ever. Circa 1996. Coincidence? I think not!
Beyond the traditionally obvious changes these body snatchers make to the females of our species during their gestation period (the big bellies, the stretch marks, the swelling breasts), these little buggers can also affect your oral health, though not in the way some people think!
Can Babies Suck The Calcium Out Of Teeth?
"Haven't you ever heard that for every child a woman has, she loses a tooth?"
There are a great many people under the mistaken belief that these baby humans can "suck the calcium" out of the mom-to-be's teeth to make their own bones stronger. While there is a link between pregnancy and dental problems, the idea of calcium-sucking aliens is not the case, though I can understand why some might believe that.
We all learned in high school biology that the parathyroid gland can release a hormone called parathyroid hormone (of all things) that can cause calcium to be released from our bones in order to maintain a normal calcium level in our blood if necessary so that our cells can function properly.
Add this to the fact that people equate teeth with bones, since they're made of similar substances (hydroxyapatite), and it would stand to reason that if your body was low on calcium, particularly since it has been invaded by a tiny human, then a tooth would be a great source to get that calcium.
Fortunately, it simply doesn't work that way. PTH does NOT cause teeth to release calcium into your bloodstream. If you're interested - PTH stimulates osteoclasts to break down bone, and requires collagenase, an enzyme that breaks down collagen, to start the process. Your enamel contains neither osteoclasts, nor collagen, so this is literally impossible. So even though WebMD and other web sites will mistakenly tell you that babies can pull calcium from your bones AND your teeth, this is simply NOT the case, my friends.
Pregnancy and Cavities
"Ok then, Dr. Lake, if you're so smart and that's really how it works, then how come I never had a cavity until I had kids and now my teeth are rotting out of my mouth?"
There are other reasons. When aliens invade our bodies, sometimes our bodies try to reject them. That can mean in the most extreme circumstances (like an Rh factor incompatibility) the body can precipitate a spontaneous miscarriage. 🙁 More likely, you'll just start feeling really sick. Morning sickness, or for some unlucky souls "all day all the time all throughout pregnancy sickness," can cause an EXTREME imbalance in the acid base chemistry of your mouth.
Remember that cavities form when the acidity levels in your mouth reach a critical pH. That acid can be a byproduct of the foods you're eating reacting with the bacteria in your mouth, can come from acidic foods and beverages, or in some instances can come from your stomach acid, as in cases of extreme gastric reflux or vomiting.
Couple that acidic level in your mouth with the cravings and frequent snacking now that you're "eating for two," and you can have a recipe for tooth decay disaster, even though the baby itself is NOT sucking the calcium out of your teeth.
And after the baby comes, let's face it, moms are often so busy caring for everyone else they forget to take care of their own needs like brushing and flossing regularly.
Pregnancy and Gingivitis
"Well, Dr. Lake, what in the heck is this tumor looking thing?!"
The hormones your body produces during pregnancy can cause your gums to become more inflamed or to bleed more often, as they make your capillaries a bit more fragile. This is called pregnancy gingivitis.
Additionally you can develop a condition called pyogenic granuloma (previously called pregnancy tumor --- don't worry, it's not a tumor).
This situation can be scary to see if you don't know what you're looking at.
It's not a tumor. It happens when there is poor plaque removal (so keep those gums clean), and is more common in pregnancy due to the hormonal changes.
If you look in the mirror and see that, let us know! We can remove it and clean the area for you. Even if you're pregnant.
Preventing Oral Health Issues During Pregnancy
"So what do I do about dental health while I'm pregnant?"
Fortunately, with a little bit of an understanding of how the process works, you can go a long way toward preventing the deterioration of your dentition.
- First of all, fight the instinct to go brush your teeth right away after vomiting.
The abrasive nature of most toothpastes coupled with the acid on your teeth can weaken the enamel further. Wait a full 20 minutes after vomiting to pick up a toothbrush.
- Instead, purchase a gentle fluoridated mouth rinse, like ACT, which will not only combat that gross bile taste, but will also provide your mouth with the basic components it needs to start remineralizing that enamel.
Secondly, limit grazing and choose healthier snacks.Try to limit the frequency of snacking or "grazing," but when you are eating between meals, make healthier food choices such as fresh fruits and vegetables rather than candies and carbohydrate rich foods which feed the bacteria that cause more acid in your mouth.
- Instead of brushing every time you eat something, chew some sugar free gum like Orbit or Trident to get those salivary glands stimulated because your saliva contains natural basic components that will help neutralize the acid levels in your mouth as well.
Dental Work During Pregnancy
"But Is It Safe To Have Dental Work Done During Pregnancy?"
Absolutely. It is safe for your growing alien, I mean your baby human, if you have dental work done while you're pregnant.
Dental work is not only safe, but recommended, during all stages of pregnancy according to the American Dental Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In fact, the ADA and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a nice handout, Tips for Good Oral Health During Pregnancy, with solid advice on how to better care for your teeth during pregnancy.
If I have my preference, the second trimester is the best time to have your "elective dental work" completed (that which is not emergent) because during the first trimester there's often that morning sickness to combat, and during the third trimester moms are sometimes physically uncomfortable. That said, I actually see patients at all stages of pregnancy.
With the low dosage of radiation and minimal scatter radiation involved with digital x-ray pictures nowadays (and the fact that this radiation is being oriented at your head and not your midsection), radiographs are also safe to provide during pregnancy. This is particularly important in the case of emergency dental treatment. Your little human will be quite uncomfortable and distressed if you're in pain, so please seek out treatment If you are having a toothache!
The Truth Is Out There
Finally, if you really want to do what's best for the little alien which has taken over your body, maintaining your own oral health is a great start to that. And when that little alien joins your family, know that the bacteria that causes tooth decay is spread from mother to child (or other maternal caregiver) through saliva. If you have no active cavities in your mouth, you're less likely to spread that bacteria to your tiny human when you're kissing and cooing all over your new little cutie.
You can also help your new bundle of joy by not sharing spoons, straws, or licking off her pacifier to clean it (yes, people do this). An infant's mouth is sterile when it's born. Keep those cavity causing bacteria from invading your new little space invader!
As always, feel free to call us at (207) 782-5308 or contact us with any questions. I love aliens - space aliens, gestating human aliens, and the just born kind! At Drews Dental we're committed to helping your whole family with your dental care, even the preborn ones. We were once gestating human aliens as well!!
Love & Alien Analogies,