Pregnancy gingivitis is the inflammation or swelling of the gum tissues suffered by many pregnant women. When plaque, the bacterial film that grows on your teeth, builds up too much, pregnancy gingivitis can result. The plaque that causes pregnancy gingivitis irritates the gums, making them bright red, tender, swollen, sensitive, and bleed readily. It is common during pregnancy because hormonal changes during pregnancy may exaggerate the body’s normal response to dental plaque. This hormonal increase exaggerates the way the gum tissues react to the bacteria in plaque, resulting in an increased likelihood that a pregnant woman will develop pregnancy gingivitis if her daily plaque control is not adequate. Pregnancy generally worsens any existing gum problems, sometimes dramatically.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, about 50% of women experience pregnancy gingivitis. This condition is most common between the second to eighth months of pregnancy. The hormones involved, estrogen and progesterone, are secreted in progressively greater concentrations throughout most of pregnancy. While this is a defense mechanism designed for preparing a woman’s body for the journey ahead, the resulting flood of hormones results in a variety of different effects. Hormones tell the kidneys to retain water in order to build blood volume to have enough to nourish the placenta. Thus a pregnant woman has 40% more fluid in her body. As a result, this increases the amount of fluid in all the cells in the body, including the gum tissues, which causes them to become “puffy”. Between the time of conception and the seventh month of pregnancy, hormones will triple in quantity, and then remain at that heightened level until delivery.
The best way to prevent pregnancy gingivitis is to practice good oral hygiene with above standard oral hygiene; this condition can be almost entirely avoided. Remember, it is the bacteria, not the hormones, which cause the gingivitis. If one experiences the symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis, it is important to visit a dentist to see if he/she needs more frequent dental cleanings or other treatment. Visits to the dentist and dental hygienist for regular check ups and cleanings are a good idea to keep gingivitis away. While good oral hygiene is important to everyone, it is even more so with pregnant women. Because gums can be painful, puffy, and bleeding during pregnancy, the tendency is to avoid touching them. Floss everyday, brush your teeth at least twice a day and use an antimicrobial mouth rinse such as Listerine or Crest Pro-Health Rinse.