Many women experience red, swollen gums during pregnancy, causing sensitivity or even bleeding. This is called pregnancy gingivitis, and it’s a result of oral bacteria taking advantage of the hormonal changes that come with pregnancy. Some 50-70% of expecting women experience pregnancy gingivitis.
In most cases, pregnancy gingivitis does not pose any long-term problems when treated carefully. However, it is essential that you practice good oral health to keep the infection from growing. This is especially true if you already have issues with gum disease. Pregnancy gingivitis can make things worse—even to the point of potentially harming your baby. That’s why it’s very important for all pregnant women to be aware of the signs of pregnancy gingivitis.
Signs of pregnancy gingivitis
The primary symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis are gums that are more sensitive or red than usual. Some women with pregnancy gingivitis may also find that their gums bleed more easily—sometimes just the act of chewing your food can cause them to bleed.
You may also notice that you have bumps on your gums that become irritated. These are called pyogenic granulomas or “pregnancy tumors. ” Don’t worry, they are not cancerous, despite the name, and they usually go away once your baby is born. If the granulomas cause you discomfort, they can be removed by your dentist.
Risks to you and your baby
Just because your swollen gums are caused by pregnancy hormones doesn’t mean there are no health risks. Pregnancy gingivitis comes with all of the same complications as regular gum disease, including increased chance of infection, more cavities, receding gums, or even loss of teeth.
In addition, studies have linked pregnancy gingivitis to preterm and low birthweight babies. Bacteria from your mouth can enter the bloodstream through infected gums, and this bacteria can make its way to the uterus, increasing inflammation, and in some cases triggering premature labor. This is especially of concern for women with preexisting gum disease.
How to treat pregnancy gingivitis
Good oral hygiene is your first line of defense. You should brush and floss very carefully during pregnancy, at least twice a day, and preferably after every meal. You should also consider using a mouthwash if you don’t already.
If problems persist or seem to be getting worse, see your dentist as soon as possible. In fact, it’s a good idea to come in for a cleaning during your first trimester anyway. That way your dentist can assess your oral health early on, developing a treatment plan appropriate for pregnancy that minimizes any risk to your baby.
- Gursoy, M. et al. (2013). “High Salivary Estrogen and Risk of Developing Pregnancy Gingivitis.” Journal of Periodontology.
- Laine, M.A. (2009). “Effect of pregnancy on periodontal and dental health.” Acta Odontologica Scandinavica.
- Russell, S. & Mayberry, L. (2008). “Pregnancy and Oral Health: A Review and Recommendations to Reduce Gaps in Practice and Research.” The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing.
- Sangeeta, G. et al. (2004). “Oral Health and Pregnancy: A Review.” New York State Dental Journal.