Gingivitis and Pregnancy

If you’re pregnant, you may have noticed that your gums feel unusually tender. They may even bleed a little when you floss or brush your teeth.

It’s not your imagination. You probably have gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums that’s common during pregnancy. Here’s what you need to know about the connection between gingivitis and pregnancy.

What Is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria. It can happen to anyone but occurs frequently in pregnant women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 75% of pregnant patients suffer from gingivitis.

If you have gingivitis, your gums become red and swollen, and they may bleed. You may also notice that your breath smells bad.

Gingivitis is irritating, but it’s also something to take seriously. It can be an early stage of periodontal disease, which may lead to tooth loss and other problems.

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What’s the Connection Between Gingivitis and Pregnancy?

The hormones released during pregnancy affect your mouth. They make your gums more susceptible to inflammation. The symptoms of gingivitis can appear anytime during pregnancy, but they usually become more intense during your second trimester.

You may also notice a greater-than-normal buildup of plaque during pregnancy. Plaque is the sticky film on your teeth when you wake up in the morning. Plaque contains bacteria that can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease.

Is Pregnancy Gingivitis Harmful?

Pregnancy gingivitis may seem like a minor issue, but it’s important to take it seriously. If it’s not treated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a destructive disease of the gums and jawbone.

If you have periodontitis, you may eventually lose one or more teeth. Periodontitis is also a risk factor for heart and lung disease.

Studies have linked periodontitis to an increase in preterm births and low-birthweight babies. That’s because bacteria that cause inflammation in the gums may get into the bloodstream. The bacteria then target the baby, possibly leading to early labor.

Treatment for Pregnancy Gingivitis

There’s no way to completely prevent pregnancy gingivitis. It tends to go away when you deliver your baby. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it during your pregnancy.

The best way to battle pregnancy gingivitis is to take good care of your teeth. Here are some ways to treat gingivitis during pregnancy.

See your dentist

Dental care during pregnancy is important. Schedule a dental visit when you find out you’re pregnant. Alert your dentist to the fact that you’re pregnant, as well as any changes in your oral health. If you need any dental work during pregnancy, your obstetrician can write you a note about what is safe in pregnancy.

Your dentist can do a deep cleaning of your teeth and gums to reduce bacteria. They can also give you pointers for how to clean your teeth at home.

Let your dentist know about any supplements or medications you’re taking. Some medicines aren’t safe to take during pregnancy, so your dentist can avoid prescribing those.

Amp up your oral health routine

It’s especially important to brush and floss your teeth regularly during pregnancy. That means brushing twice every day for at least two minutes at a time. Floss at least once a day to remove bits of food from between your teeth, where they can cause plaque build-up.

Watch what you eat

Cut back on sugary drinks and desserts that lead to tooth decay and gum inflammation. Limit snacks to healthy choices like yogurt, whole-grain crackers, and fresh fruit and veggies. If possible, brush your teeth after every meal.

Stop smoking

Smoking can make gum disease worse, and it’s bad for your baby. Do your best to quit or at least cut down on tobacco products during pregnancy.

Try a daily salt rinse

A salt rinse can help reduce gum inflammation and discourage bacteria from growing.

Once a day, add a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water. Swirl it around in your mouth a few times, and then spit it out. Don’t swallow the salt solution.

If your gingivitis symptoms continue to get worse, your dentist may prescribe oral antibiotics or a prescription mouthwash. As always, tell your dentist about any changes in your overall health.

NHS, Bleeding gums, Link

American Dental Association, Oral health during pregnancy, Link

CDC, Pregnancy and Oral Health, Link

CDC, Periodontal Disease, Link

National Library of Medicine, Relationship between Gingival Inflammation and Pregnancy, Link

National Library of Medicine, Periodontitis: A risk for delivery of premature labor and low-birth-weight infants, Link

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.