Protect your baby from dangerous complications due to Pregnancy Gingivitis and Gum Disease
Pregnancy Gingivitis affects 50 – 70% of all pregnant women.
- Pregnancy gingivitis makes pregnant women 7 times more likely to go into premature labor, suffer from preeclampsia and deliver low birth weight babies.
- Pregnancy Gingivitis can cause gum erosion, tooth decay and even loss of teeth.
What is Pregnancy Gingivitis?
Pregnancy can put a woman at risk for many different medical conditions that she wouldn’t normally be at risk for otherwise. Most people associate things like high blood pressure, irregular heart rate and high or low sugar levels being a concern in pregnancy; however, there are other concerns that women should be aware of that are often overlooked, like the dangers of pregnancy gingivitis.
Pregnancy Gingivitis is a condition that effects anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of all pregnant women, those of which are 7 times more likely to end up in premature labor, preeclampsia or delivering babies with low birth weights. It is caused by the hormonal changes of estrogen and progesterone which is produced at significantly higher rates during pregnancy. The extra production of hormones causes an increase of blood flow in the body and in the gum tissue and hinders a pregnant woman’s response to fight off the bacteria that causes gum infections.
Without being able to fight off this bacteria, plaque buildup on teeth and the gum line puts women at risk for gingivitis. Nerve endings are not prominent in the gum tissue so often women who have infection, bleeding or swelling in their gums may not even know it. Unfortunately, bacterial plaque will not only cause infections like gingivitis, but it can also destroy tissue fibers that surround the teeth that anchor to the jaws, which can eventually result in loss of teeth.
The best way to avoid such complications is to be aware of the risks involved and how to prevent them. By understanding the kind of complications one can suffer from with gingivitis and periodontal disease during pregnancy, the better one can educate themselves and learn how to avoid it.
How to Avoid Pregnancy Gingivitis
It’s important to keep up a great oral hygiene routine, which includes daily flossing, and regular dental cleanings even months before getting pregnant. This allows you to reduce the chronic inflammation of gum disease and limits the amount of bacteria getting into your bloodstream from infected tissue around your teeth. Getting your body as healthy as you can before and during your pregnancy will certainly reduce fetal problems and low birth weights.
Some research articles state there is little to no correlation of low birth weight in babies whose mothers had infected gums or gingivitis where other studies did state a link. We know it has been proven that there is a link between gum disease and systemic pathology such as in heart disease, diabetes, respiratory and in possible brain dementia. These are just a few of the systemic pathology issues in patients with long standing, chronic gum disease.
In my opinion, with what we know about the above link, it makes sense to do everything you can to prevent chronic inflammation, gingivitis and gum disease before and during pregnancy to give your unborn child the very best chance for a very healthy birth and life. Just consider the intricate and complex miracle of two cells becoming four, becoming eight, becoming sixteen and so forth.
To prevent gum disease and gingivitis, pay special attention to removing plaque around the gum line to avoid tooth decay, gum infections, bleeding and swelling. Brushing teeth at least twice daily, flossing correctly and keeping up with routine dental cleanings, decreases the chances for getting gingivitis. It’s best to make it a point to visit your dentist before pregnancy to make sure your teeth are clean and there is no plaque buildup or any oral health issues. If there are signs of oral complications or gum disease at that time, they can be treated prior to pregnancy.
During the second trimester, it’s a good idea to schedule another visit to make sure there are no signs of oral complications, including gingivitis. Early detection is key for fighting gum diseases and tooth decay.
Managing Swollen Gums
There are a few things women can do to aid in the irritation of pregnancy gingivitis or other gum diseases. Ice packs or rubbing ice on the gums if tooth sensitivity isn’t an issue can help with immediate temporary pain relief. If teeth are sensitive to hot or cold, several over-the-counter products like Ambesol or Orajel Mouth Gel can help by numbing the gums temporarily to allow for some pain relief. Rinsing with warm salt water is also known to help with the management of gum disease and has been proven to aid in the treatment of fighting gum disease. All of these products are said to be safe to use during pregnancy, but it’s best to consult your OB/GYN before using any kind of medication during pregnancy.
If a woman has gingivitis prior to pregnancy, chances are it will get worse with her pregnancy due to the increase in hormone levels. The good news for pregnant women suffering from gum disease is that the symptoms usually dissipate with proper daily home care and flossing and routine dental cleanings. Your gums will usually return to normal after delivering your baby providing you do not have periodontal disease and bone loss around the teeth.
Nutrition and Oral Care
Nutrition plays a big part in oral care. Eating food containing high amounts of sugar, or consuming sugary beverages like juice and soda increase the risk of cavities, gum disease and tooth decay. By swapping out those sugary foods with healthier choices like vegetables, fruits and dairy and following the above hygiene recommendations, the chances of getting pregnancy gingivitis and the potential fetal problems and low birth weights upon delivery are reduced.
Your OB/GYN is your best source of nutritional guidelines to ensure a healthy pregnancy and birth of your baby. There are tons of pregnancy books and Internet articles and resources that go far beyond this article in healthy eating for a healthy baby. Its common sense that sugar, caffeine, soda, fatty fast foods, alcohol, smoking plus a number of other foods and drinks could be detrimental for your growing baby.
Additionally, for women who suffer from untreated teeth decay or consume lots of high sugar food and beverages, the chance of their children developing decaying teeth is 4 times more likely. It’s best to stick to a healthy balanced diet throughout pregnancy. Calcium rich foods are an excellent choice to aid in baby’s bones, developing teeth and gums.
Talk to your pediatrician about fluoride supplements to strengthen your child’s teeth. If your water supply at home is fluoridated, you do not want to give your child any extra fluoride as this can cause fluorosis of the teeth causing white or dark staining of the developing teeth. In non-fluoridated areas, fluoride drops or tablets are usually started at the age of two to two and a half. For children too small to understand not to swallow the toothpaste, use only water as excess fluoride can be swallowed and add to the potential for fluorosis.
According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Local water systems supplying fluoridated water to residents of Chester County Pennsylvania include West Chester, Downingtown, Kennett Square and Coatesville water systems. **
Below are several links to research articles that can further your understanding of the link between pregnancy gingivitis / gum disease and fetal complications.
No dental insurance? No problem! Briglia Dental Group has developed a very affordable Oral Health Savings Plan so anyone can get great dental care without dental insurance at an affordable cost. Being a family dental group, we treat patients of all ages including children.
Click on the links below for additional information about Pregnancy Gingivitis:
- “Periodontal Disease and Preterm Low Birth Weight Babies”
- “Expectant Mothers’ Periodontal Health Vital to Health of Her Baby”
** This Information was obtained through the website for the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Please verify this information with your local utility or health department before making any health based decisions.