Have you noticed that your gums are tender, red, and swollen when you brush or floss your teeth? This is a sign of pregnancy gingivitis, and it’s a common pregnancy occurrence. An estimated 50 to 70 percent of all pregnant women will have bleeding or swollen gums when they’re expecting.
What Causes Bleeding or Swollen Gums in Pregnancy?
Pregnancy gingivitis isn’t actually a pregnancy symptom, but hormonal changes make you more likely to develop this dental problem in pregnancy. Gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums, is a result of the increased levels of the hormone progesterone surging through your body.
Progesterone can make it easier for gingivitis-friendly bacteria to grow in your mouth, and it can make your gum tissue more sensitive to plaque (the sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth, most noticeable first thing in the morning before you brush your teeth). Plus, this hormone can actually exaggerate your body’s response to the toxins that come from plaque. As a result of this hormonal change, you are more likely to develop gingivitis when you’re pregnant.
Pregnancy gingivitis is why your gums are redder than normal, why they bleed when you brush, and why your gums may be swollen or inflamed. The degree of your gingivitis can vary from mild inflammation with redness to severe inflammation that comes with bleeding.
Although bleeding or swollen gums in pregnancy is unpleasant, your hormonal levels will go back to being normal after your baby is born. So the number of gingivitis-friendly bacteria will decrease and your gums will return to a relatively healthy state in the postpartum period – that is, if you are diligent about brushing your teeth and flossing. Diligent home care can help your mouth return to a healthy state.
How to Prevent Pregnancy Gingivitis
If you’re experiencing any bleeding or swollen gums when you brush your teeth, it’s important that you contact your dentist and make an appointment. At your dental visit, the hygienist or dental assistant should give your teeth a thorough teeth cleaning, and your dentist will do a periodontal (gum) examination and give you instructions on home care.
But the best method of dealing with bleeding or swollen gums – a.k.a. pregnancy gingivitis – is to prevent it from the first place. To prevent gingivitis from developing (or getting worse), make sure that you practice good oral hygiene habits.
- Make sure that you brush your teeth at least twice a day. If you can, brush immediately after you eat.
- Floss at least once a day. It’s highly advisable that you floss after you eat, too.
- Use an antimicrobial mouth rinse in the morning and night
It’s also very important that you don’t skip out on your professional dental cleaning. If you’re scheduled for a dentist appointment, attend. You need professional dental cleanings more than ever. (However, it’s important that you always let the dentist or hygienist know how far along you are. Dental X-rays are generally safe in the second and third trimesters. Local anesthesia used in dental treatments are also considered safe throughout pregnancy.)
Gum Disease and Pregnancy Complications
You don’t want your pregnancy gingivitis to develop into something more severe. There have been several research studies that have linked severe gum disease in pregnant women with causing preterm birth (a baby born before 37 weeks pregnant) and preeclampsia (a pregnancy complication marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine.)
Remember that prevention is key!
How to Cope with Bleeding or Swollen Gums
If you find that your gums are sensitive, swollen and bleeding when you brush, please do not stop brushing your teeth. Switch to a softer bristle brush if your regular toothbrush is hurting you.