Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and causes red, swollen gums that easily bleed. If left untreated, gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, which has the ability to infect the jawbone, which may lead to bone deterioration.
Pregnant women are at an increased risk for developing a form of gingivitis known as pregnancy gingivitis. Hormonal changes, like those that take place during pregnancy, create the perfect environment for this form of gingivitis. Pregnancy gingivitis occurs in roughly 40% of pregnant women each year. Knowing what hormonal changes cause oral diseases like pregnancy gingivitis, and how to treat them, will keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong.
What Causes Pregnancy Gingivitis?
During pregnancy, women experience an increase in the progesterone hormone. The increase in hormones and blood flow throughout the body makes it easier for bacteria to grow on teeth and gums, and causes gum tissue inflammation. Pregnant women’s immune systems will also exaggerate their response to plaque, causing even more inflammation and gum bleeding.
Other hormonal changes, like those that take place during puberty, when taking hormonal medication like birth control, and during menopause may also cause a temporary decline in oral health.
What are the Symptoms of Pregnancy Gingivitis?
Often times one of the earliest signs of pregnancy is inflamed or bleeding gums. Generally, women develop pregnancy gingivitis as early as the first trimester of pregnancy, with symptoms worsening in the second trimester. The severity of pregnancy gingivitis typically reaches its peak during the third trimester. Key signs and symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis include:
- Red, swollen, sore gums
- Bleeding gums
- Receding gums
- Bad breath
- Lumps on gums
Many pregnant women grow concerned about lumps that develop on their gums during pregnancy. These lumps are called pregnancy tumors, and although they are benign, they can create some worry for expectant mothers. If present, these tumors will typically diminish following delivery. If this sounds like too long of a wait, many dentists can remove the bumps in their office at any time during your pregnancy.
The Dangers of Untreated Gingivitis
If left untreated, gingivitis can cause an array of complications. This is especially true for pregnant women who suffer from pregnancy gingivitis. If your pregnancy gingivitis develops into periodontitis, you may experience bone and tooth loss as a result.
Your unborn child may also feel the effects of gingivitis. Untreated pregnancy gingivitis has also been associated with low birth weight and premature birth.
Preventing and Treating Pregnancy Gingivitis
A majority of women in the United States will experience some form of pregnancy gingivitis during their pregnancy. Preventing pregnancy gingivitis can be accomplished by practicing proper oral hygiene, scheduling professional cleanings, and eating a healthy diet from conception to birth.
Treating pregnancy gingivitis starts with you and your dentist. It is important to let your dentist know if you are pregnant so that they can properly monitor and treat your gums for pregnancy gingivitis. Even if you have yet to tell your significant other, friends, or family, informing your dentist that you are expecting ensures that you receive the best care possible for your oral health.
Even during pregnancy, you need to continue with your regularly scheduled dental cleanings. Sometimes, dentists will recommend that their pregnant patients come in for a checkup every few months, as opposed to biannual cleanings, to make sure their gums and teeth stay healthy during their pregnancy.
You can help treat pregnancy gingivitis at home by doing the following:
- Proper Oral Hygiene – Carefully brush your teeth twice a day, and floss with the right kind of floss for your specific dental needs at least once a day to ensure you are removing plaque from your gum line.
- Using Proper Oral Hygiene Products – Use an anti-gingivitis toothpaste and an alcohol-free, anti-gingivitis mouthwash. You should consider using a soft-bristled toothbrush as it may be more tolerable during your pregnancy while you have swollen gums that are tender.
- Eating a Healthy Diet – A healthy diet not only benefits your growing child but also your gums. Avoid high-sugar foods and beverages. Eat a healthy, balanced diet full of phosphorous, protein, calcium, and vitamins C, D, and A.
- Gargle Saltwater – Gargling warm salt water can help ease inflammation and swelling and help your gums heal.
Luckily, once your baby is delivered, the sensitive bleeding gums you experience during pregnancy should start to diminish. Keep up with your dental hygiene and preventative dental cleanings scheduled after childbirth to ensure that your teeth and gums stay healthy through motherhood.
Williams & Daily Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.