Pregnancy Gingivitis

Morgan Kuhlmann, RDH, BSDH

Pregnancy can be a crazy time full of many changes! I’m currently experiencing my first pregnancy, so I wanted to talk about one of the common conditions that around half of pregnant women encounter.

If you are pregnant, you already know that many of the changes you are experiencing result from an increase in your hormone levels. These hormones contribute to the development of your baby, and they may be affecting your oral health, too. Blood flow in your gums increases as estrogen and progesterone surge during pregnancy. Your gums may become extra sensitive and susceptible to the bacteria that lives in dental plaque.

You may have developed a condition called pregnancy gingivitis if your gums are very red, swollen, tender, and there is often blood when you floss or brush your teeth. If you have any of these symptoms, it is important for you to strengthen and prioritize your oral care because it affects you and your baby. If left untreated, pregnancy gingivitis can develop into periodontal disease—a chronic bacterial infection that attacks the gum tissues and bone that support your teeth. This disease can affect the health of your unborn child.

In fact, periodontal disease is linked to pre-term, low birth weight babies. Pregnant women with periodontal disease may be 7 times more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small. The likely culprit is a labor-inducing chemical found in oral bacteria called prostaglandin. Very high levels of prostaglandin are found in women with severe cases of periodontal disease. Additionally, gum disease during pregnancy has be related to preeclampsia—a serious condition characterized by high blood pressure in pregnant women.

How do you minimize pregnancy gingivitis and avoid periodontal disease?

  • Take extra time to practice good brushing and flossing techniques to remove plaque.
  • Have a dental check-up and cleaning within the first or second trimester of your pregnancy.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and get plenty of vitamins C and B12.
  • Reduce sugary foods since troublesome bacteria love sugar.
  • Gargle with warm saltwater to alleviate gum tenderness.
  • Tobacco users should refrain from using tobacco products during their entire pregnancy.

Remember that if you’ve just started a new flossing routine, your gums may bleed at first as they get used to cleaning between the teeth. This usually goes away on its own after about a week of regular flossing. Your gums could also be bleeding more if you brush too hard. Use an extra-soft or soft-bristled toothbrush when brushing your teeth, making gentle circular motions along the gumline.

Again, periodontal disease is a far more advanced stage of gum disease than pregnancy gingivitis, but without proper care gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease. Because of the concerns detailed above, it is essential that you get a thorough dental exam and cleaning while you are pregnant. At Cedar Lodge Dental Group, we offer comprehensive dental care that is safe for you and your growing baby. Now is a great time for a check-up. Call today to schedule a visit with us!

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