Bleeding gums? Don’t panic. Plenty of women find that their gums bleed easily during pregnancy. It’s one of the many surprises you probably didn’t know about when you signed up to bring new life into the world. But is there a possibility that there is a complication to having bleeding gums when pregnant?
What causes gums to bleed during pregnancy?
Your dentist may give you a diagnosis of pregnancy gingivitis when you complain about your bleeding gums. Gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease, comes from the Latin word for gums — gingiva. Its potential causes during pregnancy include:
- Hormones. During pregnancy, your body produces higher levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones that can prompt an augmented flow of blood to all your mucous membranes. This increased circulation may lead to uncomfortable swelling or tenderness in the gums.
- Dietary changes. Congratulations on your pregnancy! You’re likely indulging in a few sugary snacks, carbs, and fast food during this special time. Luckily for you, according to the 2016 study, many moms-to-be do the same! Furthermore, research reveals that when women notice changes in their taste preferences while expecting – unhealthy snacks are often chosen as comfort foods.
- Decreased saliva production. During pregnancy, hormonal changes can lead to decreased saliva production in some people. With less saliva present, carbohydrates and sugars tend to linger on the surfaces of teeth for longer periods of time; this allows plaque – a soft, sticky substance filled with bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease – to accumulate more quickly. Therefore, it is important for pregnant women (and everyone else) to be extra vigilant about practising oral hygiene!
- Changes in saliva. When pregnant, not only do you produce less saliva, but the pH levels of your saliva become more acidic than that of non-pregnant women. Consequently, it fails to effectively buffer plaque acids, which increases your risk for tooth erosion and cavities.
- Toothpaste aversion. Not only will you find your food preferences shifting, but if you struggle with the smell of your toothpaste when brushing twice a day, don’t worry. Simply switch to a different brand or flavour; it’ll make all the difference!
- Morning sickness. If you still endure this issue, it is essential to rinse your mouth after vomiting in order to wash away the stomach acid. Wait about an hour before brushing your teeth, as the acid may have weakened the enamel on your pearly whites. To be extra protective, use a mixture of 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 1 cup of water when rinsing.
Can pregnancy gingivitis affect my developing baby?
Pregnancy gingivitis is unlikely to be harmful to you or your baby, especially if you practice good dental hygiene. You may have heard that gum disease can cause preterm labour, but that’s only a potential risk for women with severe gum disease.
Bleeding gums during pregnancy are typically fairly mild. But it’s important to see your dentist so you can prevent potential complications, such as periodontal disease. This is an infection of the gums and surrounding bone. And, yes, it can lead to loosening teeth and bone loss.
And although some studies suggest a link between severe gum disease and preterm birth, low birth weight, and even preeclampsia, other studies show no relationship between gum disease and these serious complications. Since the information available can be conflicting, it’s best to check with your provider if you have any fears about your dental hygiene and its effects on your growing baby.
Treatment for bleeding gums in pregnancy
Here are the most effective ways to take care of your bleeding gums:
- Good oral hygiene. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush gently (twice a day) so you don’t irritate your sensitive gums.
- Floss. It’s tempting when you’re tired from being pregnant, but don’t skip flossing. Doing so removes the food that gets stuck between your teeth.
- Mouthwash. If you’re not great at brushing and flossing or looking to take especially good care of your teeth, you may want to rinse your mouth with an alcohol-free mouthwash.
- Limit the sugar. Excess sugar and good teeth don’t go together. Despite the cravings, you may want to limit your sugar intake and crunch on fruits and vegetables, which are, by the way, great for your gums too.
- Take your prenatal vitamin. Vitamin C is great for gum health. Calcium will keep your teeth and bones strong. It’s typically found in prenatal vitamins, as well as in foods that are good for pregnancy — like dairy and fruit.
- Visit your dentist. You may be tempted to skip your regular visit to the dentist, but try to fit it in even if you’re anxious about having someone work around your sensitive gums. A dental checkup is the best way to keep on top of what’s happening in your mouth. If it’s not noticeable, remember to tell your dentist that you’re pregnant so that you can avoid X-rays and any work that will require anesthesia. Usually, the best time to visit a dentist is at the beginning of the second trimester.
Home remedies to treat your bleeding gums
- Keep gum inflammation at bay by using a daily salt rinse (1 teaspoon of salt added to 1 cup of warm water). Hey, if you’re up for it — go for a swim in the sea. Remember your stuffy nose? Seawater is a natural saline wash that will soothe your gums and relieve that stuffiness.
- Brushing with a paste of baking soda and water may help remove more plaque. Less plaque means less inflammation. Baking soda can also help neutralise harmful acids in your teeth if you experience morning sickness.
When should I call my dentist about bleeding gums during pregnancy?
In addition to your regular checkups, call your dentist right away if you have the following:
- A toothache
- Painful gums that bleed frequently
- Other signs of gum disease, like swollen or tender gums, receding gums, persistent bad breath, or loosening teeth
- Growths in your mouth, even if they’re not painful or causing any other symptoms
- Numbness in the mouth
How is pregnancy gingivitis treated?
Your dentist can prescribe a number of treatments to help fight pregnancy gingivitis, including antibiotics and prescription-strength mouthwashes that target gum disease. Surgery is also an option, but it’s usually reserved for serious cases.
These antibiotics and mouthwashes are generally very safe for pregnant women, and there have been no studies to suggest they would affect the growing baby’s health. Just make sure your dentist knows you’re pregnant, how far along you are, and any medications you may be allergic to.
In addition, there are some home treatments you can try, such as oil pulling (swishing a small amount of oil, generally coconut oil, in your mouth daily for about 10 minutes) and salt rinses – swishing daily with a solution made of warm water, salt and baking soda. Studies showed that these were effective in reducing plaque and signs of gum inflammation. However, you should always check with your doctor before trying new home treatments while pregnant.
When you are pregnant, your body changes in many ways. You’re not alone if you notice that your gums are red, swollen, and bleed when you brush. Pregnancy gingivitis is very common and highly treatable. Don’t ignore your symptoms because gingivitis can become more serious. Good oral hygiene and nutrition can help. You should also see a dentist for routine teeth cleaning. After your delivery, your symptoms should improve.