If you are pregnant or thinking of having a child in the near future, you may be concerned about maintaining your health. Just as your overall health is important during this crucial period, preserving your oral health is also critical. The state of your teeth and gums can play a significant role in your health and that of your baby.
Studies show that women with gum disease may have a greater chance of developing complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. In addition, pregnant women with gum disease may give birth to a low-birth-weight baby. They are also more likely to deliver their baby before the child is due. Delivering a baby well before his or her due date can lead to developmental issues for the child.
How does gum disease occur?
Gum disease, which may also be referred to as periodontal disease, is caused by bacteria within your mouth. Oral bacteria release acid as they digest simple carbohydrates left within the oral cavity after a meal or snack. This acid inflames the gums to incite gum disease. The earliest form of gum disease is called gingivitis and is often seen during pregnancy. In fact, pregnant women often develop a condition called pregnancy gingivitis.
Pregnancy gingivitis occurs due to an increase in the flow of blood to the gingival tissues. The increase in blood flow is initiated by the hormones of pregnancy. As a result, the gums of a pregnant woman are more susceptible to inflammation.
If left unchecked, gingivitis may progress to periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease that can lead to serious oral health problems. Periodontitis can cause pockets to form between the gums and the teeth, allowing the accumulation of bacteria in these spaces. The resulting infection can spread beneath the gum line, damaging the jawbone that supports the teeth and possibly resulting in tooth loss. Also, the bacteria that enters the gum pockets can sometimes access the bloodstream to cause inflammation in other areas of the body, such as the heart and blood vessels.
How does a pregnant woman know that gum disease is developing?
Gum disease is displayed by multiple symptoms, including the following:
- Swelling of gingival tissues
- Gums that bleed easily
- Tenderness of the gums
- Reddening of the gums
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Bad breath
How to Reverse Gum Disease During Pregnancy
Once gum disease is suspected, it is important to reverse it before it adversely affects you or your baby. Here are a few measures you can take to reduce gum inflammation:
- Brush your teeth at least two times daily to remove plaque and oral bacteria from the mouth. This may seem difficult during the first trimester, when morning sickness may be especially uncomfortable, but it is necessary. Be sure to use a brush with soft bristles. The gum tissues during pregnancy may be more sensitive than usual.
- Floss at least once a day. Although a toothbrush will remove plaque from most of the surfaces of your teeth, the device cannot clean effectively between the teeth.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash. Mouthwashes that contains antimicrobial agents can help control the number of bacteria in your mouth. However, try to avoid alcohol-based rinses, which can cause dry mouth. Dry mouth can facilitate a resurgence of the bacterial population in your oral cavity.
- See your dentist regularly. During pregnancy, visits to your dentist are more important than ever. Regular preventive care can help you avoid oral health conditions that can place the health of you and your baby at risk.
Growths on the Gums During Pregnancy
Pregnant women may also develop a condition called pregnancy tumors. These benign growths have a red, bumpy appearance and bleed easily. In addition, they tend to occur in the areas between teeth.
Although pregnancy tumors are sometimes associated with plaque buildup within the mouth, they usually dissipate after delivery. Still, if the raspberry-like growths cause discomfort or prevent you from brushing or eating normally, contact our office. We can assess the condition of your gums and determine if the removal of the growths is the best option.
To learn more about keeping your gums healthy throughout your pregnancy, contact our office to schedule an appointment.