How Does Gum Disease Affect Pregnancy?

beautiful pregnant woman brushing teeth at bathroom

Pregnancy influences every aspect of your wellbeing, including and especially your oral health. Hormonal fluctuations, dietary changes, and other developments can have a major impact on your gum tissue. According to WebMD, “40% of women will develop gingivitis [gum disease] sometime during their pregnancy,” and having preexisting gum issues can also affect your gestation. At Dr. Cindy Flanagan’s Houston dental practice, our team is available to assist you with any and all concerns. We frequently help expectant mothers manage their periodontal health. Of course, the first step in maintaining your gums during this exciting and challenging time is understanding them. In the following blog, we explain how gum disease affects pregnancy.

Primary Periodontal Principles

When most people think about their oral health, they focus on their teeth. However, keeping your gum tissue in good shape is equally important. The same bacteria that erode your enamel and cause cavities can also infect your gum tissue. This infection is called gingivitis, which involves swelling, bleeding, and sensitivity. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more serious infection that can lead to gum recession and even tooth loss. This is why, pregnant or otherwise, it’s always important to take care of your gums.

What is Pregnancy Gingivitis?

The immense changes your body goes through during pregnancy make your gums particularly vulnerable to infection. WebMD explains: “The increased level of progesterone in pregnancy may make it easier for certain gingivitis-causing bacteria to grow, as well as make gum tissue more sensitive to plaque and exaggerate the body’s response to the toxins (poisons) that result from plaque.” Basically, during this time, your gums both provide a more hospitable environment for bacteria and are themselves much more sensitive to any irritation. WebMD notes that “if you already have significant gum disease, being pregnant may make it worse.” Furthermore, even if you had healthy gums before becoming pregnant, gingivitis could develop, especially “between the second and eighth month of pregnancy.”

How Gum Disease Affects Gestation

Unfortunately, in addition to making gum disease more likely, pregnancy also makes gingivitis and periodontitis more dangerous. Probably due to the systemic nature of infection and other general health factors, gum disease raises women’s risks of delivering too early. According to WebMD, “The Journal of the American Dental Association found that pregnant women with chronic gum disease were four to seven times more likely to deliver prematurely (before gestational week 37) and underweight babies than mothers with healthy gums.”

In this way, suffering from gum disease during pregnancy could have a significant impact on not just your health, but your future child’s wellbeing, as well. As the president of the American Academy of Periodontology notes, “It is important for expectant mothers to monitor their periodontal health…by [doing so], you are not only supporting your overall health, but also helping to ensure a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.”

Treatment Options

So how can you remedy pregnancy gingivitis? As the old adage goes, prevention is the best medicine. This is certainly true when it comes to gum disease during pregnancy. As soon as you find out you are pregnant, we recommend that you come see Dr. Flanagan for a preventive care appointment. In addition to thoroughly examining and cleaning your teeth and gums, we can provide helpful home hygiene tips to keep your gums in top shape. During your pregnancy, it will be especially important that you brush your teeth at least twice per day and floss at least once daily. The preventive treatment method is the best because it helps you avoid gum disease altogether, but if you do develop pregnancy ginvigitis, we may be able to perform a deeper cleaning treatment, prescribe certain antibiotics, and recommend certain vitamin supplements, such as vitamin C or A.

Contact Our Houston Dental Practice Today!

Are you experiencing symptoms of gum disease during pregnancy? Would you like help keeping your gums healthy while you’re expecting? Contact us today to find out more and schedule an appointment with Dr. Flanagan.

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