Women's Healthcare Topics

Teeth and Gum Changes

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Gum Changes

During pregnancy you can expect your mouth and gums to undergo multiple changes. Many women experience bleeding gums during pregnancy. Also, you may notice that your gums and teeth are more sensitive than before. That’s because your mouth is not immune to the havoc that your pregnancy hormones can create.

The shift in your hormones increases the blood flow to your gums, and it can cause them to become more sensitive and irritated. As a result, your gums may swell or bleed after you brush your teeth.

The increased level of pregnancy hormones in your body can also change how your body responds to bacteria. This can make it easier for plaque to build up in your mouth, leading to cavities and other dental problems.

You also become more susceptible to gingivitis during pregnancy. If you have pre-existing gingivitis, it can worsen when you are pregnant.

Pregnancy gingivitis is something you’ll want to try to prevent, if possible.

Gum changes can start to appear around the end of your first trimester, or after the second month of pregnancy. Fortunately, your gums will go back to normal after you deliver your baby.

To prevent gingivitis and gum disease during pregnancy, it is very important that you continue to practice good oral health, including brushing and flossing your teeth on a regular basis.

Learn about your tooth and gum changes in pregnancy.

Don’t skip your regular dental checkups just because you are pregnant. Delaying dental work can lead to more problems. Several studies have linked gum disease to pre-term labors and low birth weight babies.

Pregnancy tumors, which are non-cancerous inflammatory growths that develop on your gums, can also occur during pregnancy. They are usually painless, but they should be treated. These tumors are caused by your body’s inflammatory response being extra sensitive to local irritants, like plaque, during pregnancy.

Pregnancy Health Section

The Risk of Periodontitis in Pregnancy

If you don't maintain good oral hygiene, pregnancy gingivitis can lead to a gum disease called periodontitis. This dental disease causes the gums to pull away from the teeth and forms "pockets," which can get infected. Your immune system fights the bacteria, as plaque spreads below the gum line. When this "fight" occurs, the immune system will actually break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. As a result, your teeth may become loose or even fall out.

Not only can periodontitis make you lose your teeth, but some experts believe that this serious gum disease may lead to premature birth, low birth weight babies, and other pregnancy complications. To protect your baby, you need to take good care of your teeth during pregnancy.

Sensitive teeth or not – brushing and flossing at least twice a day is recommended to reduce pregnancy gingivitis. Fortunately, once you deliver you baby, your gums will go back to normal and you are not at higher risk for dental disease.

Treating Gum Disease and Dental Problems during Pregnancy

Fortunately you can keep your teeth and gums very healthy throughout your pregnancy. You should plan on visiting your dentist at least once during your pregnancy. If your dentist finds gingivitis, undoubtedly he or she will recommend an appropriate treatment program to help prevent periodontal disease from developing.

Here are some simple strategies you can adopt at home to help promote healthy teeth and gums during your pregnancy:

  • Brush your teeth and gums routinely. For most people that means brushing at the minimum after each meal. When you do brush you should make a point to do so for at least five minutes.

  • Floss routinely. Flossing is important for preventing gingivitis and periodontal disease. Try a thin floss or waxed floss if you find your gums are sensitive during pregnancy.

  • Invest in a soft toothbrush. Your gums and teeth are much more sensitive during pregnancy. You should also take care to brush gently when pregnant. Applying ice to your gums may help alleviate soreness or swelling you experience during pregnancy.

  • Avoid sugary foods. These will only contribute to gingivitis and decay.

Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease

If you take good care of your teeth and still experience routine inflammation and bleeding, this may be a sign that something more serious is happening in your mouth. If this is the case its best for you schedule an appointment with your dentist. Here are some circumstances that suggest you may have an underlying tooth problem or gum disease during pregnancy:

  • You experience frequent bad breath despite regular brushing.

  • Your gums bleed consistently or remain swollen and inflamed.

  • You find chewing or eating painful or uncomfortable.

  • You have one or more teeth that hurt or are loose.

  • You have an unexplained lump or painful spot in your mouth.

It's very important that you don't delay getting dental work until after your baby is born. Forty weeks is a long time to wait, and gingivitis and gum disease only gets worse the longer that you wait.

When you get a dental exam or dental work done, always let your dentist know how far along you are in your pregnancy.

Contact your dentist's office immediately if you notice that your gums are bleeding quite a lot or they are painful, if you notice a lump or growth in your mouth, or you lose a tooth or you have pain in a tooth. You want to take care of these problems right away, since decaying teeth can lead to infections that can hurt your developing baby.


Doctor's Corner

Pregnancy Week by Week - Women's Healthcare Topics