Pregnancy And Gum Disease
Hormonal changes during pregnancy have a direct effect on the gums and usually not in a good way. Pregnancy hormones like estrogen, progesterone and chorionic gonadotropin affect cell growth, bone metabolism, wound healing, the dental plaque and microbiome. 50% to 100% of pregnant women experience gum disease during pregnancy.
In this article I will discuss the effects of pregnancy on gum disease, the increased risk of oral infections during pregnancy, how oral infections can affect the baby, and tips for treating gum disease during pregnancy.
Pregnancy Hormones And Your Mouth
Estrogen causes cells to grow. During pregnancy, the placenta produces high levels of estrogen. These high estrogen levels can cause puffy, bleeding swollen gums. In addition, the pregnant mother can experience benign pregnancy tumors also known as Pyogenic Granulomas. If you develop gum disease, bleeding gums or benign pregnancy tumors, you should see your dentist for thorough cleanings to remove plaque and irritants. Your dentist might also suggest using antimicrobial mouthwashes.
Progesterone is another pregnancy hormone that can cause inflammation, bleeding gums and gum disease symptoms. It is advisable to see a dentist or periodontist for treating gum disease during pregnancy in order to reduce these symptoms.
Pregnancy And Changes In Oral Bacteria
Several of the bacteria that cause gum disease use pregnancy hormones to grow and multiply during pregnancy. Elevated levels of these bacteria cause gum disease, bleeding and cavities.
Pregnancy And Oral Infections
Pregnant women are more prone to infections. This is related to both hormonal changes and a weaker immune system during pregnancy.
Many women are fearful of seeking dental care while they are pregnant. They are not sure if dental treatments can harm the baby. I will talk later in this article about a safe approach to visiting the dentist and treating gum disease during pregnancy.
Many women also have a weaker immune system during pregnancy. As a combined result of a weaker immune system, more gum disease and avoiding the dentist, dental infections in pregnant women can quickly develop into dangerous deep space infections and put you and your baby at risk. It is important for pregnant women to seek care immediately when there are signs of infection such as oral pain, swelling, a bad taste in the mouth or bleeding.
Gum Disease And Negative Pregnancy Outcomes
Gum disease is an infection of the gums that increases inflammation and inflammatory mediators such as prostaglandins and interleukins. An upsurge in prostaglandins from gum disease or an infection could signal early contractions and premature birth and a low birthweight baby. Dozens of studies have linked gum disease to higher risks for premature low birth weight babies.
There are no studies that definitively show that gum disease treatment will avoid this complication. These studies are hard to do and we may never reach a definitive conclusion. However, given the large body of evidence that shows a link between gum disease and negative pregnancy outcomes, it is better to be safe and treat your gum disease during pregnancy with simple cleanings and laser disinfection procedures.
Can Mothers Transmit Gum Disease Bacteria to Their Babies?
After the baby is born, gum disease bacteria can be transmitted from mother to infant, making the child more at risk for developing gum disease. Again, it is highly recommended to treat your gum disease during pregnancy in order to protect your baby.
How About Cavity-Causing Bacteria? Can They Also Be Transmitted?
Yes. If a mother has cavities, the bacteria that cause those cavities can be passed on to the baby through close contact and sharing a spoon when the mother is testing the baby food. It is recommended to see your dentist to remove any active cavities in the teeth in order to protect your baby.
Is It Safe To See The Dentist During Pregnancy?
Yes, not only is it safe but it is recommended to see the dentist every 3 months during pregnancy. The dentist can provide cleaning services, screenings for infections, instructions for cleaning the teeth and removing plaque.
7 Tips For Treating Gum Disease While Pregnant
- Brush twice a day with a soft toothbrush and floss every day. Here is a gentle toothpaste I recommend. It is fluoride-free, as there are concerns about toxicity to the baby from too much fluoride.
- Try to minimize sugary foods that create acid in the mouth. If you enjoy an occasional snack be sure to follow it with cheese or apples to counteract the acid.
- Drink plenty of water, at least 8 -10 cups a day. For optimal hydration drink water with electrolytes like magnesium, potassium and sodium. Coconut water is a natural electrolyte water. I recommend electrolyte powders such as LMNT and Jigsaw Health. Avoid sodas and fruit juices with corn syrup.
- Eat lots of fruit and vegetable to get vitamins and minerals naturally.
- Consult your doctor about optimizing your Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D helps to strengthen teeth and fight gum disease. I recommend getting your Vitamin D through natural sources like daily sun exposure, cod liver oil, and grass fed liver supplements, to name a few.
- Chew gum with xylitol to reduce the risk of transmitting your harmful oral bacteria to your baby.
- Have your teeth cleaned professionally at the dental office every three months. Consider laser pocket disinfection for treating your gum disease.
During pregnancy women are exposed to hormonal changes that cause gum disease and cavities. Most evidence points to a link between gum disease and negative pregnancy outcomes like premature low birth weight babies. Pregnant mothers should be aware that it is safe and advisable to see a dentist for routine cleanings and screenings during pregnancy.
May you have a healthy pregnancy, a healthy delivery and may your baby bring you years of joy.