Gum disease (gingivitis) is common among most American adults and can usually be treated easily with proper homecare instructions. As I’ve explained in previous blogs gingivitis is inflammation of the gums that is caused when plaque accumulates along the gum line or between the gums and teeth. It’s important to know that when you are pregnant you have a greater risk of gingivitis because of increased levels of progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone that is associated with pregnancy and it increases your response to bacteria within the mouth when pregnant.
It’s important to inform your dental provider when you are pregnant so they can monitor your oral health for pregnancy gingivitis, give you tips on better oral hygiene and only take X-rays when needed. Pregnancy gingivitis is most commonly diagnosis between months two and eight of pregnancy. If you have any signs or symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis make sure to call your dental provider for an evaluation, as it’s important to catch and treat early. Symptoms to be aware of are;
· Red or Swollen Gums
· Tender or Bleeding Gums
· Sensitive Teeth
· Difficulty or Pain when Chewing
· Loose teeth
Dental x-rays and dental work during pregnancy is based on individual needs. It is recommended that routine x-rays not be taken and no unnecessary dental work be done until after birth. If dental work needs to be done due to areas of decay which can lead to infection, the best time is during the second trimester. In emergency cases, where one might have a toothache or infection, the area should be treated immediately to decrease risk of further infection and complications for the mother and baby. If an x-ray is needed, know that a single diagnostic x-ray does not have enough radiation to cause any adverse effects, as long as proper shielding is worn according to the American College of Radiology and the American Dental Association.
It’s important to have good oral hygiene during your pregnancy, which includes keeping up with your routine hygiene appointments. This allows your dental provider to monitor your plaque levels as well as the health of your gums. Extra plaque due to the increase in progesterone can accumulate during pregnancy leading to the symptoms listed above. If you are already prone to plaque buildup or experience an increase in plaque more frequent cleanings may be recommended, which some insurance companies may cover during pregnancy. Here are a few additional tips to help control these plaque levels; Eat a healthy, balanced diet, avoid sugary snacks, make sure your brushing thoroughly for the entire two minutes using an anti-plaque, fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and thoroughly swishing with an antimicrobial rinse.
As a dental professional this is important to me because if pregnancy gingivitis goes untreated it can lead to pre-term low birth weight babies. 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 than women who had healthy gums. This is why it’s important to follow the recommendations of your dental provider during your entire pregnancy. Your dental care will also be discussed during your pre-natal appointments and asked about on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts birth certificate worksheet.
During your pregnancy or even after you give birth be sure to ask your dental provider about how to properly care for your baby’s gums and teeth. The most important thing you can do as a parent is to start wiping their gums with a damp cloth daily, so milk does not sit on their gums, and start brushing when the 1st tooth arrives. Check out my blog again next week for more dental tips on how to care for your new baby.