There are a lot of things pregnant women need to do in order to maintain their health during pregnancy. Eating healthy foods, taking prenatal vitamins, and regular check-ups keep the body in good shape. It's just as important, however, to pay attention to your oral health during this exciting time as well.
What dental challenges are there in pregnancy?
Over the course of a pregnancy, the body goes through a wide variety of changes. Fluctuating hormone levels can cause mood swings, bloating, and changes in the skin and hair. It can also cause gum tissue in the mouth to become sensitive and swollen. The tissue is more likely to bleed during brushing or flossing, allowing bacteria inside the gum. This is called pregnancy gingivitis.
What is pregnancy gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the inflammation of gum tissue. Other symptoms include bad breath, bright red gums, and possibly a receding gum line. Pregnancy gingivitis is simply gingivitis that occurs during pregnancy-- something that happens to 40% of women. If left untreated, gingivitis will progress into periodontitis.
In those with periodontitis, the gum starts to separate from the tooth, leaving pockets of air open. Food and bacteria get trapped in the pockets, resulting in an infection. As the infection spreads, it destroys the tissue anchoring the surrounding teeth in place. Ultimately, this can cause the teeth to become loose and possibly fall out.
One other danger of pregnancy gingivitis is the increased risk of going into premature labor. The bacteria living in the gums of someone with gingivitis, once it enters the bloodstream, can potentially reach the fetus and cause premature labor.
How is pregnancy gingivitis treated?
To prevent pregnancy gingivitis from transitioning into periodontitis, it's important to treat it early. Your dentist will evaluate how far the gum disease has progressed and scrape away any plaque in the mouth. This is done through a process called planing and scaling.
During planing and scaling, your dentist cleans the teeth completely, from the top right to the roots. The procedure can occasionally be painful, and sometimes it may be necessary to numb the gums first. Additionally, because the procedure kicks up bacteria that could potentially be swallowed, antibiotics are sometimes prescribed afterward.
How is pregnancy gingivitis prevented?
Pregnancy gingivitis is prevented by practicing good oral hygiene. Regular brushing and flossing, avoiding foods such as soda and candy that are bad for teeth, and regular visits to the dentist's office for cleanings are all extremely important for pregnant women. For more information or help with this condition, contact a professional like David L. Botsko, DMD.