Many pregnant women show some signs of gingivitis during pregnancy. Gingivitis is defined as the inflammation or swelling of the gum tissues. Most cases of gingivitis are the result of poor oral hygiene.
If plaque, the bacterial film that builds up on your teeth, is not removed daily by brushing and flossing, the plaque can irritate the gums, making them bright red, tender, swollen, sensitive and bleed readily.
During pregnancy there is a special need for good oral hygiene because pregnancy may exaggerate the body’s normal response to dental plaque. This is because four basic hormones vital to the continuation of pregnancy are produced in large quantities during the gestation period. This hormonal increase exaggerates the way the gum tissues react to the bacteria in plaque, resulting in an increased likelihood that a pregnant women will develop gum disease if her daily plaque control is not adequate. It is important to note, that it is the plaque, and not the increased hormone levels that is the major cause of pregnancy gingivitis.
Swelling of the gums is usually first seen in the second month of pregnancy and generally reaches a peak by the middle of the last trimester. It can remain that way for 3-6 months after delivery. The seriousness of the gingivitis can range from mild to severe depending on the gum problems existing before pregnancy. Pregnancy generally worsens preexisting gum problems, sometimes dramatically.
The “old wives” tale of “a tooth for every pregnancy” is based on misconceptions that oral problems during pregnancy are a normal occurrence and cannot be prevented. Even though hormonal changes are occurring, making the pregnant woman more at risk of developing pregnancy gingivitis, a mouth that is clean (i.e. good plaque control) does not develop pregnancy gingivitis.
Effectively brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste at least once a day. Use a soft toothbrush with rounded bristles. Choose a size and shape that allows you to clean the chewing surface, the cheek side, and the tongue side of the tooth. Brushing should take 2-3 minutes so DON’T RUSH YOUR BRUSH!!!
Floss your teeth daily to remove plaque from the tooth surfaces not reached by the toothbrush (like the sides of your teeth).
Visit your oral health professional such as your dental hygienist regularly for advice and therapy on oral disease prevention and oral health promotion while you are pregnant. This is a good time to ask your hygienist if you are brushing and flossing effectively and if there is room for improvement in your daily plaque control.
By practicing good oral hygiene, and visiting your dental hygienist regularly, gingivitis can be prevented during pregnancy.