Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy. Some of them can make it difficult to maintain good health, including oral health. Gingivitis can occur during pregnancy and can potentially damage your teeth and gums. Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent or minimize this common gum disease among pregnant people.
This article discusses the treatment and prevention of gingivitis during pregnancy.
What Is Pregnancy Gingivitis?
Pregnancy gingivitis is when your gums become red and swollen while you’re pregnant. They may feel sore and bleed easily.
Pregnancy gingivitis can develop when you’re pregnant because your body is producing more of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This process increases blood flow within your body. The extra blood supply helps keep the baby healthy, but the additional blood flow can make your gums more sensitive.
Pregnancy may also make you more prone to gum infections, or a buildup of plaque (the sticky film on your teeth). This is because pregnancy changes how the body reacts to bacteria, and plaque is made by bacteria.
Your gums will probably return to normal after you have your baby, but it’s important to keep your mouth healthy in the meantime.
Pregnancy and Gingivitis Treatment and Prevention
Pregnancy gingivitis affects as many as 75% of pregnant people.
It’s important that you pay special attention to your oral health during pregnancy, because gingivitis can progress to a serious gum disease called periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss.
Fortunately, there are steps you can follow to keep pregnancy gingivitis under control. The main goal is to avoid letting plaque build up on your teeth, which irritates and inflames your gums.
Brush Twice and Floss at Least Once a Day
You should brush your teeth twice a day. Brush for a full two minutes, and make sure you’re covering all surfaces and gently stimulating your gums as well. You can set a timer to make sure you are brushing for long enough.
Flossing removes food particles where bacteria can grow and form plaque. It also stimulates your gums, which helps keep them healthy.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Foods that contribute to healthy teeth and gums are many of the same foods that will help your baby be healthy.
Many fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, like vitamin C, that will help protect your gum tissue from damage and infection. Fresh fruits and vegetables have plenty of nutrients, which are good for your developing baby.
Foods that are high in calcium, such as yogurt, almonds, soy milk, and dark leafy green veggies (such as kale and spinach), can also help keep your teeth strong. Green or black tea contains a substance called polyphenol that can kill or reduce bacteria in your mouth.
Visit Your Dentist Regularly
Even if you brush, floss, and avoid sugar during your pregnancy, you still need to visit your dentist. Dental hygienists can remove more plaque than you can, and the dentist can examine your teeth and gums to address problems before they progress.
Dental hygienists can also remove tartar, which is hardened plaque that must be cleaned off professionally.
Professional Recommendations for Dental Care During Pregnancy
Some dentists—and some pregnant people—feel that dental visits may be risky during pregnancy. However, the American Dental Association, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that dental care is safe and important for the vast majority of pregnant people. However, if your pregnancy is high risk or you have an underlying health condition, discuss your dental care with your obstetrician and dentist first.
Plaque buildup sets off an inflammatory response in your gums, so plaque control is essential when it comes to avoiding pregnancy gingivitis.
In addition to brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist, you can also help control plaque when you:
- Avoid dry mouth: Saliva helps wash plaque away, so if your mouth feels dry, drink water or eat crunchy food, which stimulates saliva production.
- Avoid sugary and starchy foods: These promote the formation of acid when they come in contact with plaque. The acid can erode tooth enamel over time, so plaque can hurt your teeth as well as your gums.
Helpful Pregnancy Gingivitis Products
Regular at-home oral care will help fight pregnancy gingivitis. There are toothpastes and mouthwashes that contain antiseptics intended to kill more of the bacteria that form plaque. They may help break down the film on your teeth that inflames your gums when you have pregnancy gingivitis.
Complications of Pregnancy Gingivitis
Pregnancy gingivitis is an early form of periodontal disease, which is a more serious gum condition. If pregnancy gingivitis progresses and becomes periodontitis, you can lose teeth if it’s not corrected. It can also lead to a serious infection that travels throughout your body and requires urgent medical treatment.
Some studies show a connection between periodontal disease and conditions like heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Some studies have also shown a higher rate of preterm birth in pregnant women who had oral health concerns, but experts disagree on a connection between gum disease and increased risk of complications during pregnancy.
When to See Your Dentist
Most dentists and obstetricians feel that you can see your dentist safely at any time during your pregnancy.
Some dentists don’t recommend dental care during the first trimester of pregnancy, and may choose not to take X-rays, though there is little evidence that low radiation dental X-rays are harmful.
You may opt to wait to have any major dental procedures that require anesthesia or medication until after you deliver. Talk to your obstetrician and dentist about timing.
You are more prone to develop gingivitis (red and swollen gums) when you’re pregnant than at other times, because hormonal changes reduce the body’s ability to ward off the bacteria that forms the film on your teeth (plaque).
You can help reduce pregnancy gingivitis with good at-home oral care, including regular brushing and flossing. Most experts agree that it is safe to visit your dentist while you’re pregnant. A professional dental cleaning can remove more plaque than you can at home.
A Word From Verywell
Despite some debate, most experts agree that going to the dentist while you’re pregnant is not only safe, but important. It’s important to take care of your teeth during this important period of time. If you have any reservations about dental care during pregnancy, talk to your obstetrician or dentist.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you go to the dentist while pregnant?
Most experts agree that you can see a dentist safely while you’re pregnant, and that good oral health is important to you and your baby. Some dentists prefer not to treat pregnant women or take X-rays, however. If you are concerned, are high risk, or have underlying health conditions, discuss dental treatment with your obstetrician.
Will pregnancy gingivitis harm my baby?
There is some evidence that serious gum disease, called periodontitis, may increase the risk of a preterm birth. The evidence is not conclusive, however. Taking good care of your teeth and gums is important during pregnancy. Discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider and dentist.
Should you tell your dentist you are pregnant?
You should inform your dentist that you’re pregnant or if you think you may be. Tell them if you have received any particular instructions from your obstetrician. If your pregnancy is high risk, your dentist and obstetrician may recommend delaying some dental treatments until after delivery, but routine dental care is generally safe and important.