What is Pregnancy Gingivitis?
Pregnancy gingivitis is a form of gum disease characterized by swelling and inflammation of the gums during pregnancy. The gums are red, swollen, and tender, and often bleed during brushing or flossing. It is fairly common as about half of pregnant women experience this form of gum disease. All people have a bacterial film that is constantly forming on the teeth and gums causing a buildup of plaque, which in turn increases the amount of bacteria. Without proper oral hygiene to remove it, this buildup of plaque and bacteria irritates the gum tissue, resulting in swollen, inflamed gums. This condition is called gingivitis, and is the first stage of gum disease. During pregnancy, hormonal changes in the body alter the natural response to plaque so that the gums respond in an exaggerated way, thus making pregnant women more likely to get pregnancy gingivitis.
Gingivitis is caused by the bacteria in plaque irritating the gum tissues. Pregnant women are at a higher risk because they usually have higher levels of estrogen and progesterone; the same is true for women taking oral contraceptives. Increased hormone levels make the gums more sensitive to irritation. The risk of pregnancy gingivitis rises during the second month of pregnancy and goes down again in the ninth month. Gingivitis present when you become pregnant is likely to get worse during the course of your pregnancy.
The exaggerated response to bacteria and plaque can also cause pregnancy tumors. These rare tumors are benign growths that develop on the gums; although they are harmless and usually painless, they should be treated by a dentist. Sometimes these growths bleed during brushing, and they can grow to up to three-quarters of an inch. If you have a pregnancy tumor and experience discomfort, excessive bleeding, or difficulty chewing or brushing, then see your dentist right away to have it removed. Pregnancy tumors can occur anywhere on the body, but they are by far most common in the mouth.
With gum disease, the infected gums become a reservoir for bacteria. As the disease progresses, the bacteria attack your gums, ligaments, and bones around the teeth and form infected pockets in your mouth. These pockets can give bacteria access to your bloodstream, allowing them to travel throughout your body. If they reach the uterus, your body is triggered to produce prostaglandins, a natural fatty acid responsible for controlling smooth muscle contractions and inflammation. During pregnancy, the level of prostaglandins rises and eventually peaks during labor. Extra prostaglandins in the body in response to infected gums may trigger your body to go into labor too early, resulting in a preterm or low-birth weight baby. This is usually only a risk for women with advanced stages of gum disease, so the importance of early treatment and prevention cannot be overstated.
If you experience swollen or bleeding gums, then schedule an appointment with your dentist. They will remove the plaque and tartar, or hardened plaque, which has built up in your mouth. They can also provide information about an oral care routine to help treat pregnancy gingivitis and recommend additional treatment if required. You should also see your dentist as soon as possible if you notice any of the following:
- Painful gums that bleed frequently
- Additional signs of gum disease such as receding gums, loosening teeth, or persistent bad breath
- Growths in your mouth, whether or not they are painful
Pregnancy gingivitis can usually be prevented with proper oral care. Take the following steps to keep your mouth healthy:
- Brush two to three times per day, preferably after each meal, with a soft toothbrush.
- Floss daily.
- Use an alcohol-free mouthwash daily.
- Schedule preventive dental care; visit your dentist as soon as possible if it has been more than six months since your last cleaning. Make sure to tell them you are pregnant at the beginning of your visit.
- If you experience morning sickness, rinse your mouth with water or brush your teeth more frequently to neutralize the acid in your mouth from vomiting.
- If brushing your teeth contributes to morning sickness, then rinse with water, brush your teeth without toothpaste, and finish with an anti-plaque mouthwash.
- Eat foods loaded with vitamins B12 and C.
- Get treatment promptly for any other dental problems.
If you are looking for great oral care products to use during pregnancy, consider Oral Essentials. All of our products are alcohol and chemical free, and are safe for the entire family to use. We use only the finest quality natural ingredients such as Dead Sea salt, aloe vera, mint, essential oils, and coconut oil to leave your mouth healthy and clean. When you need a safe and effective way to fight pregnancy gingivitis, add Oral Essentials toothpaste and mouthwash to your daily oral hygiene routine.