Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy: What's the Connection?

dentist discussing periodontal treatment with pregnant woman

Pregnancy is a miraculous experience that can affect your entire body — including your oral health. Because there is a link between periodontal disease and pregnancy, as well as periodontal disease and preterm labor, it's very important to maintain your oral care throughout your pregnancy. Here's how periodontal disease and pregnancy are connected and what you can do to ensure that your mouth and body stay healthy during this time.

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal or gum disease affects the soft tissues that hold your teeth in place — i.e. your gums and the bone underneath. If you have gum disease, it means that these soft tissues have suffered damaged from the bacteria in your mouth. Whether or not the condition is reversible depends on how far it has progressed.

Reversible gum disease is known as gingivitis, as the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) explains. This is when the gums become irritated due to poor oral hygiene, leaving them swollen, inflamed and red. You might experience some bleeding as well.

Irreversible gum disease is known as periodontitis. This is occurs when gingivitis is left to progress and, as a result, the gum and bone that hold your teeth in place are destroyed. This can ultimately lead to tooth loss.

Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

As an article in Oral & Implantology states, periodontal disease during pregnancy starts with the accumulation of dental plaque, which can increase due to hormonal action. The changes in a pregnant woman's oral microbiome may also contribute to the development of periodontal disease.

Signs of periodontal disease can be exacerbated in pregnancy. These include:

  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Formation of pockets between the teeth and the gums

If you notice any of these symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis or pregnancy periodontitis, it's important to see your dental professional as soon as possible for an evaluation.

Effects of Gum Disease on Pregnancy Outcomes

There is some evidence to support that periodontal disease can increase the incidence of adverse pregnancy outcomes. According to a study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research, such adverse outcomes may include:

  • Preterm labor
  • Low birth weight
  • Restriction of the baby's growth

Researchers hypothesize that these reactions develop because some bacteria associated with gum disease spread into the fetoplacental unit.

Treating Periodontal Disease While Pregnant

According to the AAP, maintaining healthy gums is important for pregnant women. If gum disease develops, non-surgical treatments are safe for pregnant women.

The AAP outlines that there are other measures pregnant women can take to maintain optimal oral health at home. It's important to continue routine brushing and flossing to prevent gum disease from developing. In addition, you should continue seeing your dental professional regularly during pregnancy. Your dentist will have you complete a comprehensive periodontal evaluation, advise you on appropriate oral hygiene regimes at home and give you a professional cleaning.

It's very important for expectant mothers to recognize the importance of good periodontal health and to discuss this with their dental professional. Maintaining good gum health not only supports the mother's overall health, but it also helps to ensure a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.