Pregnancy impacts nearly every part of your body. While you may be focused on your growing belly or swollen feet, your mouth is also experiencing changes. The massive increase in female hormones during pregnancy can cause your gums to swell and bleed. When the gums get irritated, inflamed or infected, gum disease is threatening your oral health. Gum disease is a serious condition that not only affects your dental health, but it can also compromise your overall health. Gum disease has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and more. The consequences get even more serious if you are pregnant. Research shows that gum disease is also associated with pre-term birth. In fact, one study in The Journal of the American Dental Association reported that expecting mothers who have persistent or chronic gum disease were four to seven times more likely to give birth prematurely to underweight babies.
Now that we have your attention on how serious gum disease can be during pregnancy, let’s take a closer look at what causes it and how to prevent it. Progesterone levels rise during pregnancy, which unfortunately also triggers a rise in bacteria growth within the gums. To aggravate the problem, gum tissues are already more sensitive and susceptible to plaque than normal. When bacteria and plaque sit below the gum line, the gums get inflamed and may even bleed. This may be the first sign of gingivitis, or early gum disease. As much as 50% to 70% of all pregnant women experience gingivitis, which typically occurs between the second and eighth month.
At the early stages of gingivitis, gum disease is very treatable. However, it will require diligent oral hygiene efforts on your part. For women that suffer from morning sickness, brushing your teeth can be a challenging task, but it is a job you must do for the sake of you – and your baby.
Skipping your routine dental checkups should never be an option during pregnancy. In fact, preventative care from your dentist is highly important during these months. If you are concerned about your safety or your comfort while in the dental chair, follow these helpful suggestions provided by The American Pregnancy Association:
- The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that pregnant women eat a balanced diet, brush their teeth thoroughly with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste twice a day, and floss daily
- Have preventive exams and cleanings during your pregnancy
- Let your dentist know you are pregnant
- Postpone non-emergency dental work until the second trimester or until after delivery, if possible
- Elective procedures should be postponed until after the delivery
- Maintain healthy circulation by keeping your legs uncrossed while you sit in the dentist’s chair
- Take a pillow to help keep you and the baby more comfortable
At North Pointe OB/GYN Associates, we want to make sure our patients know about the numerous ways that pregnancy can impact their health. If you notice signs of gingivitis, be sure to let your dentist know right away. Our obstetricians are happy to work with your dentist or other medical specialists when necessary to ensure your body stays at optimal health during your pregnancy.