Looking for information about gum health during pregnancy? You’ve come to the right place!
As Portland’s experienced and nationally-recognized holistic oral health expert, Dr. Blodgett is an advocate for proper gum and whole-body health through all stages of life — but especially during pregnancy.
Pregnancy increases your risk of developing gingivitis (also known as gum disease). On its own, gum disease is a serious health problem, but during pregnancy, the effects are magnified and can contribute to devastating pregnancy outcomes.
Keep reading to learn the facts about pregnancy gingivitis and why good oral hygiene is a vital component of a healthy and happy pregnancy. Then, find out how the LANAP procedure can treat pregnancy gingivitis.
What is pregnancy gingivitis?
Clinically speaking, pregnancy gingivitis is the same as other forms of gum disease: it’s an infection of the gums caused by bacteria-filled plaque.
Left untreated, gum disease is known to lead to or exacerbate serious health problems — from heart disease to high blood pressure and stokes. It also causes pregnancy complications (which we’ll dive into more soon).
Symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis typically present as…
- Bright red and inflamed gums
- Sore and tender gums
- Bleeding gums when brushing and flossing
What causes pregnancy gingivitis?
Everyone has a certain level of risk of developing gingivitis. But during pregnancy, hormonal shifts in the body drive increased blood flow to gum tissue. This puts your gums on high alert, making them much more sensitive to plaque — or more specially, to the bacteria in plaque.
If you’re not practicing proper oral hygiene (brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist regularly) plaque will start to build up on your teeth. Your gums will react by becoming inflamed and infected.
Since your body is using a significant amount of its immune resources to develop your child, it leaves your mouth and gums with less protection. Other factors like your nutritional and dietary habits (which often change during pregnancy) can contribute to how your body reacts to bacteria.
The result is a dangerous infection that affects your overall oral health. This can enter the body through your mouth, spreading more viciously than it might be able to if you weren’t pregnant.
The role of pregnancy gingivitis plays in pregnancy
Your mouth is a doorway to the rest of your body. When your teeth and gums are unhappy, the rest of your body will have problems, too. And as research and studies have deduced, when you’re dealing with pregnancy gingivitis, your body (and your baby) will feel the impact.
Risk of infertility and tooth loss
Left untreated, pregnancy gingivitis will morph into a more serious form of the disease called periodontitis. Periodontitis hurts your gums, the bone supporting your teeth, and often leads to tooth loss.
For those who are interested in getting pregnant in the future, it’s important to understand that periodontitis can hurt the ability for women to conceive. One study shows that women with periodontitis are 3 times more likely to not become pregnant compared to those without the disease!
Preterm labor, diabetes, and miscarriage
If you conceive in spite of periodontitis, or if you develop pregnancy gingivitis or periodontitis during pregnancy, there are other risks to be aware of.
Infected and swollen gums are home to serious disease-causing bacteria. This bacteria lives cozies up under the gums and may eventually enter your bloodstream and cause big problems for your baby.
Research suggests that gum bacteria can signal the body to go into labor sooner than it should. One study reported 25% of preterm delivery mothers had periodontitis. Poor oral health is also believed to lead to negative pregnancy outcomes like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and even fetal loss.
Whether you’re currently suffering from pregnancy gingivitis or are feeling nervous for the future of your pregnancy, there is good news. When treated early, pregnancy gingivitis is completely reversible. Proper oral hygiene and advanced dental care can reverse most pregnancy gingivitis issues can without any harmful effects on you or your baby.
How to avoid gum disease before and during pregnancy
Your risk of pregnancy gingivitis typically increases during the second trimester, so take extra care as you enter this stage of pregnancy and beyond.
Give your oral health routine some extra special attention. That means no skipping flossing before bed, and always brushing after every meal! Take special care to get rid of plaque in those hard-to-reach areas. Investing in an electric toothbrush can be very helpful, as well.
Your diet also plays a role in your body’s ability to fight off infections in the mouth, so be sure to incorporate lot of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants. You may experience some interesting food cravings during pregnancy, but try to avoid too many sugary foods — especially those that are hard or sticky.
Lastly, the most important way to protect your oral health (and your child) is to partner with an experienced dentist. Even if you’re not exhibiting symptoms of periodontal disease, you may still be at risk.
Let your dentist know you’re pregnant (or thinking about becoming pregnant), evaluating your risk and create a plan for monitoring your oral health throughout your pregnancy term. Together, you can make sure you’re using the right tools and treatments to help avoid plaque and disease-causing bacteria.
Experiencing morning sickness?
Don’t brush your teeth after vomiting!
Right after vomiting, you’ll have a lot of very harsh acid is sitting on your teeth. This acidity immediately starts to weaken your enamel. If you go in with a toothbrush right away, you risk hurting your tooth enamel and removing precious minerals from their surface. Instead, neutralize the acidity by rinsing with a mixture of 1 tsp. of baking soda in one 12 oz. glass of water.
Treating gum disease during pregnancy with LANAP
Like we mentioned above, if your dentist discovers that you’re suffering from pregnancy gingivitis, there is help available!
Modern advancements in dentistry are simply amazing — and the LANAP procedure is no exception. This FDA-approved, laser-assisted procedure is the revolutionary way to restore your gum health during pregnancy or any time you’re dealing with gum disease.
Not only is LANAP minimally invasive (no painful scalpel or stitches!) and safe during pregnancy, it also helps promote the regeneration of healthy gum tissue and bone, preventing recession.
Dr. Blodgett is Portland’s most experienced LANAP-certified dentist
Whether you plan on becoming pregnant in the near future or are currently pregnant, don’t wait to talk to Dr. Blodgett about how LANAP can help with the fight against gum disease during pregnancy.
Dr. Blodgett is a recognized leader in minimally-invasive dentistry, dental lasers, computerized dental technology, and holistic care. He can help you stop worrying about the health of your gums during pregnancy and would love to answer all your questions.
Remember: The mouth is an integral part of the body. If you had an infection (or were at risk of infection) in another part of your body during pregnancy, you would seek immediate medical help, right? Why wouldn’t you do the same for a problem in your mouth?