“Pregnancy gingivitis” is the swelling/inflammation of the gums that many pregnant women suffer, especially early on in their pregnancy. It is caused by a bacterial film that grows on the teeth, resulting in plaque buildup. This plaque irritates the gum tissue, making them tender, bright red, swollen, sensitive, and easy to make bleed.
The hormonal changes during pregnancy change the body’s natural response to dental plaque, and thus exaggerate the way the gum tissues react to the bacteria in plaque, thus resulting in a higher chance of pregnant women getting gingivitis. Generally, if extra care is taken of the teeth and possible plaque buildup, it can be prevented. It is even more important to have a good oral hygienic routine during this time.
It is very important for expecting mothers to take care quickly if they have gum disease because they have a six times greater risk of having preterm and low-birth weight babies! If expecting mothers had untreated tooth decay and/or consumed a lot of sugar, their children had four times the risk of developing tooth decay as opposed to children of other mothers.
Tip: Women who are pregnant should have a periodontal exam as part of prenatal care. Statistics have found that only half of expecting mothers receive proper dental care.
As far as hormones are concerned, expecting mothers (and also women who take oral contraceptives) generally experience elevated levels of estrogen and progesterone. This is why pregnant women have a 65 to 70% chance of developing gingivitis during the pregnancy. The risk of getting gingivitis increases beginning with the second month of pregnancy and decreases with the ninth month.
If you already have gingivitis going in to a pregnancy, it will likely get worse during pregnancy if you do not get treatment. Keep in mind that it is the bacteria in plaque that causes gingivitis by infecting the gum tissue and not the hormonal changes.
The problem with gum disease (periodontal disease) is that the infected gums are toxic reservoirs of disease-causing bacteria. The toxins released can attack the ligaments, gums, and bones surrounding your teeth to create infected pockets similar to large infected wounds in the oral cavity. These pockets, unfortunately, can provide access to your bloodstream and allow bacteria to travel throughout your body.
Since the bacteria that cause gingivitis can enter the bloodstream, the bacteria can travel all the way down to the uterus. This triggers the body to produce prostaglandins, which is a natural fatty acid that normally controls inflammation and smooth muscle contraction. When a woman is pregnant, her level of prostaglandins increases and peaks when she goes into labor. It is possible that if extra prostaglandins are produced when the body is reacting to infected gums, a pregnant women’s body may think it is a signal to go into labor sooner than expected, thus causing a baby to be born too early or too small.
Pregnancy tumors (pyogenic granuloma) are part of the exaggerated response to the plaque/bacteria that causes gum disease. They are inflammatory and benign growths that develop on the gums, and although they are not cancerous, they should be treated. They are rare and usually painless.
Beware of any medications that you take during pregnancy when you are treating an infection.
How to Prevent Pregnancy Gingivitis:
- Brush teeth 2-3X a day and after meals whenever possible
- Floss and use mouthwash every day
- If you are suffering from morning sickness, rinse your mouth with water frequently and/or brush your teeth as often as possible to neutralize the acid caused by vomiting
- If toothbrushing causes morning sickness, rinse your mouth with water, brush without the toothpaste and use an anti-plaque fluoride mouthwash afterwards
- Eat healthy foods with plenty of vitamin B12 and C
- See a dentist for advice on preventing/controlling plaque and gingivitis. Schedule routine checkups and dental cleanings.
Source: Dental Gentle Care
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