Women who are pregnant, for the first time, have been warned about many of the side effects that a pregnancy can have on their bodies. But one side effect that doesn’t get a lot of attention is the effect that pregnancy can have on the gum tissues of the mouth.
A full 40% of pregnant women will develop something called Pregnancy Gingivitis. Gingivitis is simply a condition where your gum tissues are more swollen than they should be. They also tend to bleed more than normal.
What is Pregnancy Gingivitis?
Your run of the mill gingivitis may be caused by any number of factors. The leading causes are a lack of a good oral hygiene routine or a lack of regular dental visits. Pregnancy gingivitis is a little different, however. The expectant mother’s body will produce more estrogen than normal. This increase in estrogen then causes the bacteria that cause gingivitis to increase.
Thus, no matter how good your home care routine and no matter how many times you have your teeth professionally cleaned, your gums still may seem a little inflamed, tender, and prone to bleeding.
So What Should I Do?
While developing gingivitis during pregnancy is very common, it's not a hopeless situation. There are a few different things that can help;
First: Be extra diligent with your home care. If your normal routine of brushing twice a day was sufficient before you got pregnant then you may want to try brushing after every single meal during pregnancy. Flossing frequency should also increase. If you usually use a regular toothbrush, it's worth it to invest in an electric toothbrush. The powerful oscillations can remove 5x more plaque and may make all the difference to your gum health. If you hate flossing and need some help developing a better habit, you might try using a floss pick. These handy little devices don't cost much and take all the work out of twisting floss around your fingers and angling your hand into hard to reach places in your mouth.
Second: Start using a good mouthwash. Make sure that you select one that is made for killing bacteria. Some mouthwashes are solely for fresh breath, fluoride delivery, and/or dry mouth and will do nothing to kill the extra bacteria in the expectant mother’s mouth.
Third: Avoid sugary foods. Sugars in your diet provide food for the bad bacteria in your mouth and the rest of your body and serve to increase the rate at which they produce.
Finally: If the bacteria get out of hand, a dentist may actually prescribe an antibiotic. These antibiotics will be in liquid form so that they can be swished and thus kill bacteria right at the source. Antibiotics in pill form would work in a more systemic fashion, would take much longer, and could unnecessarily disrupt digestion.
The point here is that pregnancy gingivitis is a fairly common occurrence, but with education and diligent home care, most of the soreness, inflammation, and bleeding does not have to become a real problem.
Click here for a video lecture on pregnancy gingivitis by Oral Care Club's own Dr. Jim Ellis