If you’re pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, you’re likely learning about a lot of specific health issues that can affect you and your baby. Hormonal changes and changes to your body during the pregnancy can have an enormous impact on your overall health. That’s why it’s important to get all the information you need to stay healthy during this exciting time. Many women are unaware, however, that pregnancy can affect oral health. Here’s why developing periodontal disease during pregnancy is more likely—and some steps you can take to prevent potential problems.
Triggers for Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease (gum disease) is an extremely common problem in the United States. In fact, it occurs in about half of all adults over the age of 30. It may seem unfair that pregnancy makes the risk for periodontal disease even higher, but unfortunately hormonal changes are to blame for this fact. Periodontal disease begins when bacteria in plaque and tartar start to irritate the gums. Over time, this can progress and lead to red, swollen gums, loose or missing teeth, bone loss, and even serious diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Pregnancy increases the chances for developing gum disease due to changes in hormone levels in the body. Increases in estrogen and progesterone, in particular, affect how the gums react to harmful bacteria contained in plaque. This is why it is so important that women take particular care with their oral health during pregnancy. The first signs of gingivitis and periodontal disease are usually swollen, sensitive, red gums that often bleed during brushing and flossing, but the consequences can become much more serious for both you and your baby if left untreated.
Gum Disease Affects the Baby
As an expectant mother, you have a lot on your mind, and you know that your health affects your new baby’s health as well. What you might not know is that gingivitis and periodontal disease in mothers have been linked to some problems in newborns. Studies have shown that pregnancy gingivitis and periodontal disease have been associated with pre-term delivery and low birth weight. Research indicates that this has to do with the bacteria that enters the bloodstream through the gums, affecting the reproductive system.
Pregnancy Tumors and Periodontal Disease
Pregnancy tumors sound terrifying to most expectant mothers, but they’re actually a common symptom of gingivitis and gum disease during pregnancy. Pregnancy tumors most commonly appear during the second trimester, though they can form at any time during pregnancy. The tumors appear as lumps in the gum, usually near the top gum line, and are red, often glistening. They can bleed, crust over, and be very uncomfortable for women who develop them. They occur in about 10% of pregnant women and are non-cancerous. They are simply an inflammatory response to oral bacteria and food particles, exaggerated by pregnancy hormones. While many pregnancy tumors will go away on their own, others may need to be removed by a dentist. Unfortunately, they sometimes reappear after removal.
While it’s not always possible to prevent pregnancy-related gingivitis and periodontal disease, there are some steps you can take to help reduce your risk. Practicing diligent oral hygiene is the best way to fight periodontal disease, whether or not you’re pregnant. Brushing at least twice a day (using the proper techniques), flossing daily, and regular visits to the dentist will help keep your gums healthy and prevent inflammation. If you do start to develop symptoms, like redness and bleeding gums, your dentist can perform treatments like a deep cleaning to help restore your gum health.
First Steps: See a Dentist
Pregnancy means thinking about your health in entirely new ways. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, then one of your first steps should be seeing a dentist. A periodontal disease specialist like Drs. Gallardo is the best choice for reducing your pregnancy gingivitis risk. If you’d like to speak with an expert at our Miami offices, call 305-547-8687 today!