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Pregnancy & Oral Health

Baby feetExpecting mothers know — or quickly come to realize — that pregnancy impacts numerous aspects of their day-to-day lives. This includes changes in gingival (a.k.a. gum) health. In fact, since the 1960s, researchers report a marked increase in gum disease in pregnant mothers. Many mothers will notice an alteration in the color, sensitivity, and even size of their gum tissue. In fact, nearly 75% of pregnant women will develop gum disease during pregnancy. Read on to find out why this shift occurs and what can be done to diminish pregnant parents’ greater susceptibility to gum disease.

Why and how does pregnancy affect gum health?

Pregnancy and oral healthPregnancy causes hormonal changes, and these fluctuations place women at an increased risk of gum disease. This is because elevated hormone levels cause the small blood vessels of the gum tissue to dilate in response. In turn, the widening of the gum tissue allows bacterial plaque (a colorless, sticky film of bacteria) and accompanying toxins to infect the gums and enter the bloodstream through the mouth.

This bacterial infection inflames the gum tissue and causes gum disease (a.k.a. periodontal disease). Gum disease, a serious infection that damages the soft and hard tooth-supporting structures in the mouth, is the result of the accumulation and development of plaque between the teeth and gums. Left untreated, tooth mobility and tooth loss results.

Moreover, studies suggest a link between preterm delivery and periodontal disease in pregnant women. Evidence indicates that the plaque entering the bloodstream through swollen gum tissue may invade placental tissues and provoke an inflammatory response. This inflammatory response releases harmful substances into the bloodstream that may prompt preterm delivery.

Other risk factors besides hormones place expecting mothers at a higher risk of gum disease. These include more intense cravings for sugary or acidic foods, which contain harmful bacteria that attacks the gum tissue. Also, severe morning sickness increases the probability of bacterial infection because of the stomach acids that accompany morning sickness.

Some warning signs to be aware of include tender, red, or swollen gums. Often the gums will bleed when you floss. Some people also experience a persistent unpleasant taste in the mouth and bad breath that lingers even after brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash.

What pregnant mothers can do to combat periodontal disease

The solution is simple: follow a consistent and thorough oral hygiene routine. Doing so will remove bacterial plaque, the main contributor to gum disease.

An effective oral hygiene regimen should include brushing your teeth thoroughly after every meal and before bed. Make sure you brush for at least two minutes at a time. Flossing is also imperative, because brushing only removes about fifty percent of oral plaque. Finally, swish with a mouthwash to remove any lingering particles. If possible, use a toothpaste and mouthwash that contains fluoride to strengthen your teeth as well. Notably, a baby’s teeth begin to develop within the first trimester, and the healthier you are, the healthier your baby’s teeth and gums are likely to be.

If gum inflammation, tenderness, or other discomfort persists, it is a good idea to consult an oral health professional to assess any underlying issues. They should be able to advise you on the next steps to take to ensure you and your baby’s oral health.

Have questions? Give North Raleigh Periodontics a call at (919) 518-8222!