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.
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
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About UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital
For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long-renowned for its services to women and babies but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Our patient-first approach ensures you and your loved ones get the care you need. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and our NICU is one of the largest in the country. Our network of care – from imaging centers to hospital services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland, giving you a chance to get the expert care you need close to home. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes UPMC Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.