Pregnancy Gingivitis

Pregnancy Gingivitis: Taking Care of Your Oral Health During Pregnancy

You might be surprised to learn that tending to your oral health should be a major priority during pregnancy.

Those 9 months involve lots of doctor’s appointments. With those frequent trips to see your obstetrician, to get lab work done, and to have ultrasound scans, you might be tempted to skip some of your other obligations. But you don’t want to skip a visit to your dentist, say Virtua dentists Dr. Frank Lammerding and Dr. Richard D’Eustachio.

Why? Well, the chances of developing pregnancy gingivitis are pretty high, even if you’ve always had good oral health. Up to half of all pregnant women develop the condition.

What’s more, if left untreated gingivitis can develop into full blown gum disease, and several studies have found a strong link between advanced gum disease and pre-term labor.

“The rise in progesterone and increased blood flow during pregnancy can cause gums to swell and provide a breeding ground for the kind of bacteria that causes gingivitis,” says Dr. D’Eustachio. You might also be tempted not to brush as thoroughly when your gums are swollen, which of course can make things worse.

Other symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis include soreness and bleeding. Good oral hygiene and health care is the key to prevention and treatment. As a pregnant woman, you need to:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft bristled toothbrush, paying gentle but thorough attention to the gum line.
  • Brush for at least two minutes each time. Many electric toothbrushes have a handy built-in timer to let you know when you’ve hit your mark.
  • Use an alcohol-free mouth wash. “Alcohol-based rinses can only further irritate your mouth,” says Dr. D’Eustachio. 
  • Go to your dentist for your usual cleaning and check-up. But don’t wait if you’re having issues: You should make a new appointment at the first sign of an uncomfortable or painful problem in your mouth.

If you have a pre-existing problem that you let slide before becoming pregnant, pregnancy is likely to make it worse. In this case, visit your dentist as soon as you learn you are pregnant to discuss your treatment options, which are likely to be scheduled during your second trimester, when it is generally safest to perform dental procedures.

With proper oral hygiene and health care, most cases of pregnancy gingivitis will resolve on their own, with no harmful effects on mother or baby.

Updated June 6, 2016

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