About 70% of women develop gum disease during pregnancy, commonly known as “pregnancy gingivitis.” This condition can unfortunately have adverse affects on the health of the baby, as Dr. Amanda Tavoularis of Dentably explains in this insightful guest post. By understanding the serious implications, as well as the risk factors, women can take care to decrease the chances of developing the oral condition.
A thing that many people don’t realize is how closely your oral health and the rest of your body’s health are related. It’s true, what happens in your mouth can affect the rest of your body. For pregnant women, who are constantly working to keep their body healthy, this may come as a bit of a shock.
In fact, poor oral health can actually lead to many different pregnancy complications. As a dentist with over 20 years of experience, I’ve worked with countless women to help keep their oral health on track during their pregnancy.
Today, I want to look at gum disease, a very common but potentially serious oral issue, and how pregnancy gingivitis can negatively affect both mom and baby.
What is gum disease?
To start, gum disease is a bacterial infection of the gums and surrounding tissues. At first, it causes swollen and bleeding gums, but left untreated it can lead to receding gum lines and tooth loss. Gum disease typically gets worse over time, so treating it quickly is important.
In terms of causes, the biggest one is poor oral hygiene. Not taking ample care of their teeth is the most common way people develop gum disease.
Many people also develop it due to incorrect habits, such as brushing or flossing poorly. That said, there are other risk factors, including:
- Aggressive brushing
- Rise in hormone levels
Thus, developing gum disease is still possible even with perfect hygiene and regular dentist visits.
How can gum disease affect pregnancy?
It’s very important for expectant moms to understand that your oral health is your body’s health. They’re very closely linked, and problems in your mouth can cause issues elsewhere in your body.
In terms of gum disease, the major issue is that it has been linked to later term pregnancy complications. Studies show that gum disease may increase the odds of a premature birth or having a baby that is underweight.
Both of these scenarios are very serious. Pregnancy gingivitis, unfortunately, can have long lasting effects on your child’s health.
These complications can occur because of the bacteria that causes the disease, spreading throughout your body. Left unchecked, the bacteria can get into your bloodstream, and then travel down to your uterus or placenta.
Outside of that, gum disease has been shown to increase the odds of or cause further complications of other serious ailments. Two examples are heart disease and diabetes, both of which can be very serious.
It’s certainly an extra concern you don’t want to add on when you’re already dealing with a pregnancy.
How to prevent pregnancy gingivitis
With the dangers in mind, it’s also important to know what you can do to prevent gum disease. Luckily, the process is not too difficult, and largely consists of things you should already be doing.
Firstly, take your at-home care seriously. This means brushing, flossing, and using an antimicrobial mouthwash each and every day. Preventative care is the best way to prevent gum disease, and a dental care routine including the above is the best way to do so.
You’ll also want to watch your diet and keep your sugar intake low. That can be difficult with pregnancy cravings, but do your best to limit your sugars and your mouth will thank you.
It’s also important to make sure you’re keeping up with your dental visits. As mentioned above, even with good dental care it’s possible to develop pregnancy gingivities, and the best way to catch it is to get an expert to examine your mouth regularly.
A dentist will be able to evaluate your current oral health, and make recommendations on how to improve, as well as treat any current issues. That’s all, in addition to the deep clean they provide during the appointment, which is another important part of preventative care.
If you are diagnosed with gum disease it’s important to seek treatment as recommended. Many women are a bit apprehensive about getting dental work done during their pregnancy, but in the majority of cases it’s perfectly okay. In fact, you putting off treatment is often more dangerous as it gives time for the disease to spread and cause further harm.
In terms of things like sedatives used during operations or prescriptions afterward, many of them are safe for pregnant women. It’s important to talk to your dentist though, as not all are safe.
Let them know about your pregnancy, and they’ll be sure to provide a treatment schedule that is safe for both you and your bundle of joy.
Combat pregnancy gingivitis: Keeping up with your oral care
Hopefully now you see how important keeping up with your oral care is while expecting. The consequences of not doing so can be severe, so make sure to prioritize a good oral care routine.
As always, whenever you’re in doubt about pregnancy gingivitis or another dental issue, talk with your dentist. We are here to help you and want every patient to have a healthy mouth.
About today’s writer
Dr. Amanda Tavoularis brings over 2 decades of expertise to the Dentably team and is committed to providing information and care to women and expecting mothers. She studied at the University of Washington School of Dentistry and continued her education at the Kois Center. With a son of her own, Dr. Amanda knows first hand how to take care of your dental health during pregnancy.