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You probably know that many physical and emotional changes you will experience during pregnancy result from an increase in the levels of certain hormones — the chemicals that regulate many important processes in the body. But what you may not realize is that these hormonal variations can affect your oral health — and usually not for the better. In fact, surges in the female hormones estrogen and progesterone can dilate (expand) the tiny blood vessels in your gums, increasing blood flow. This makes gums more sensitive to the bacteria (and associated toxins) found in the sticky dental plaque that accumulates on teeth every day.
Pregnant women commonly notice that their gums may become red and swollen, and even bleed when they floss or brush their teeth, a condition known as “pregnancy gingivitis.” Similar gum inflammation can result from taking birth control pills that contain a type of synthetic progesterone, or even from the normal hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle.
Another, less common effect of pregnancy hormones on the gums is an overgrowth of gum tissue or small, berry-colored lumps at the gum line or between teeth. These growths are called “pregnancy tumors,” though they are completely benign.
All of the above conditions usually clear up within a few months after giving birth. Still, if you experience gum inflammation, it's a sign that you need to take extra conscientious care of your teeth and gums during pregnancy.
Pregnancy hormones don't cause gingivitis by themselves — the irritants in plaque need to be present first. So if you experience the signs and symptoms mentioned above, you'll want to redouble your oral hygiene efforts, both for your sake and your baby's. Untreated gingivitis can progress to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis — a bacterial infection that attacks not just the gums but also the tooth-supporting bone beneath. It can eventually cause bone loss, loose teeth and even tooth loss. Some research has even indicated a link between periodontal (gum) diseases and other serious health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Pregnant women should also be aware that studies have suggested a link between periodontal (gum) disease and preterm delivery. Although the exact mechanism by which this happens is unclear, evidence suggests that the bacteria in dental plaque can reach the placenta and trigger inflammatory responses. This causes substances to be released into the bloodstream that may in turn start labor prematurely. Preeclampsia, a form of high blood pressure specific to pregnancy, may also be associated with periodontal disease.
Pregnancy & Oral Health Pregnancy is generally thought of as the time when a woman strives to be particularly aware of the need for “health.” Many women though may not be aware of the link that exists between their oral health and their systemic (general) health, as well as the impact that many other factors can have on a developing child. Learn about how to care for yourself and your baby... Read Article
Pregnancy & Birth Control Pregnant women or those taking birth control pills can become prone to gum disease — a bacterial infection caused by a buildup of dental plaque. That's because in both cases, the elevation of certain hormones causes blood vessel changes in the gums, making them more susceptible to the effects of bacteria... Read Article
Expectant Mothers As an expectant mother, you know you need to take special care of yourself. But did you know this extra TLC extends to oral hygiene? Pregnancy hormones can make a woman more prone to gum disease and other oral health problems. Find what you can do to safeguard yourself and your baby... Read Article