Tenderness and mild swelling of the gums. Bleeding gums after brushing or flossing. These are common signs of pregnancy gingivitis—and yes, it’s completely normal!
In fact, almost half of all women experience bleeding gums during pregnancy.
Most often, bleeding gums occur during the second or third trimester. Although, some pregnant women may notice blood on their toothbrush as early as the first trimester. Bleeding gums can even be the first tell-tale sign of pregnancy.
Alongside bleeding and swollen gums, you may notice small, raised, red bumps along your gum line and between teeth that may bleed on brushing. Pyogenic granulomas (AKA pregnancy tumours) are rare but still a normal occurrence. Don’t be alarmed! Despite the scary sounding name, they’re non-cancerous and usually disappear after birth.
It can be useful (and help put your mind at ease) to understand some of the reasons for swollen and bleeding gums in pregnancy.
Certainly, women are no strangers to the wonder of hormones. During pregnancy, the surge in both estrogen and progesterone can cause increasing blood flow to your gums and inflammation of the gum tissue. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also make your gums more sensitive to the bacteria in plaque.
Fighting pregnancy-related food cravings can be tough. However, where possible, try to avoid high sugar foods. Carbohydrates and sweet foods encourage plaque build-up and increase the number of bacteria in the mouth. This can cause tooth sensitivity and bleeding gums.
Did you know it’s normal to produce more or less saliva during pregnancy? While some may feel like their saliva is in overdrive, others may experience pregnancy dry mouth. And dry mouth isn’t just uncomfortable — it can affect your oral health too. The problem is that saliva helps wash away food debris. Without it, the mouth can become a haven for cavity-causing bacteria.
Vomiting, heartburn and acid reflux increase gastric acid in the mouth. This build-up of acid can cause dental erosion and heighten your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Of course, if you’re lucky and your morning sickness is short-lived there’s little need to worry, especially if you rinse your mouth with water after vomiting.
For some pregnant women, the taste of toothpaste makes them retch — thanks again, morning (or all day) sickness! It may be helpful to try a brand of toothpaste with a milder flavour or brush the back of your teeth first before cleaning the front. This way you avoid tasting the flavour of the toothpaste for as long as possible. If the taste is *really* too much to stomach, brush with water alone. If doing so, consider using a fluoride mouthwash to help protect teeth from decay.
And if nausea gets the better of you and makes cleaning your teeth a struggle, try to brush at a time during the day when your symptoms may be milder.
There’s no evidence to suggest mild gum inflammation harms the foetus.
However, if left untreated, pregnancy gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease. This is a more serious condition as it affects the gums and surrounding bone. Some studies suggest that there may be a link between periodontal disease in pregnancy and premature birth with low birth weight and pre-eclampsia — but this is an area of ongoing research.
While there’s nothing you can do about pregnancy hormones, there are a few actions you can take to help keep bleeding gums at bay.
The best way to take care of your oral health is to brush teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Don’t forget to floss and consider using an alcohol-free, fluoride mouthwash.
If you notice a decrease in saliva, chewing sugar-free gum can help increase saliva and neutralise the acid in the mouth to protect teeth against plaque build-up.
Eating a healthy diet and limiting sugary drinks and foods can do wonders for your oral health. Calcium, found in milk, cheese and other dairy foods, encourages strong teeth and bones. Vitamin D is also essential, as this helps your body absorb calcium. Good sources include oily fish (e.g. salmon and tuna), egg yolks, and fortified foods (such as milks, margarines, and cereals).
Vitamin C, found in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, boosts collagen production to strengthen gums and teeth. What’s more, studies show that low levels of Vitamin C are linked to an increased risk of gum disease.
The good news for mums-to-be? Taking a daily prenatal supplement containing Calcium, Vitamin D, C, and other vitamins or minerals supports your baby’s development as well as your dental health.
A 2016 study shows salt water may reduce the inflammation and swelling associated with pregnancy gingivitis. Simply mix 1 teaspoon of salt into a small cup of warm water. Rinse the water around your mouth for 20-30 seconds before spitting out.
Baking soda is another ingredient that may help combat gingivitis-causing plaque build-up, thanks to its antibacterial properties. Try it by mixing a teaspoon of baking soda with a small amount of water (just enough to turn it into a paste). Dampen your toothbrush, dip it into the paste and brush your teeth as normal.
Oil pulling, a traditional Ayurvedic remedy, has surged in popularity in recent years. This method involved swirling a tablespoon of coconut oil around your mouth for 15-20 minutes before spitting it out. Oil pulling is believed to reduce bacteria and plaque, stop bad breath, and whiten teeth.
More good news? Pregnancy gingivitis is treatable when caught early. A professional scale and clean can remove hardened plaque and debris that can’t be reached with your brush or floss alone. So, don’t be tempted to skip your regular dental check-up while you’ve got a baby on board!
It’s also important to note that if you had a diagnosis of gum disease before falling pregnant, you should visit the dentist more often during your pregnancy.
When visiting your dentist, remember to tell them you’re pregnant so they can provide you with the best care and advice—and take the proper precautions to keep you and your baby safe and healthy.
Whether you’ve noticed a few warning signs of pregnancy gingivitis or you’d like some advice on how to keep your gums in great shape while on the path to parenthood, simply get in touch — we’re always here to help.
Are you due for your next dental check-up? You can easily book online now — it only takes a few clicks! At TL Dental, we’re preferred providers of HCF, Medibank, and NIB, among others. So, there's a good chance that your private health insurance may cover some or most of your treatment costs.
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