If you're a mom-to-be, you expect the excitement and parenting jitters that accompany your pregnancy. But did you know that swollen gums during pregnancy is fairly common, as well?
Hormones and Swollen Gums
From sleep disruption to mood swings, your pregnancy hormones can wreak havoc on your day-to-day. It's normal for the hormones associated with pregnancy — estrogen and progesterone — to spike 10- and 30-fold, reports the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research (JCDR). You may be so focused on eating well and getting enough rest that you're not aware that your oral care deserves the same attention when you're expecting.
While your body is busy sustaining your growing baby, the increased blood flow necessary to do so is also a direct cause of swollen gums. Your pregnancy won't cause periodontal disease, but it may worsen the condition, notes the JCDR. Committed oral care during pregnancy is one of the most helpful steps to preventing and decreasing inflammation in your gums.
Questions to Ask During Pregnancy
It's important to schedule and attend your normal doctor or obstetrician visits during pregnancy. It's also important to make sure you have a timely assessment of your oral health. Schedule a dentist visit early on in your pregnancy, and ask about a timeline of visits for dental cleanings and treatments. Depending on your first visit, and whether you have pre-exisiting gingivitis, your dentist and doctor may instruct that you step up cleaning appointments to once per trimester or more.
Frequent dental appointments may give you insight into your baby's development. Your doctor may be able to screen for pre-term labor risk based on estrogen levels in your saliva, reports the JCDR. This type of testing may not be automatically offered. Be sure to ask your doctor and dentist about it, especially if you have pre-existing gingivitis or a history of gum disease.
Timing Dental Treatments
During pregnancy, it's customary for your dentist to hold off on invasive dental procedures, such as root canals and fillings, that aren't emergencies. The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that if you do need a tooth pulled or other procedure performed during pregnancy, local anesthetics are safe for you and your baby.
Be sure to ask about any abscesses or swelling that appear to be more than the typical swollen gums during pregnancy. A condition known as pyogenic granuloma, or a pregnancy tumor on the gums, occurs in only about 1 to 5 percent of pregnant women. It's more likely to crop up if you already have some gum swelling and is usually the result of increased blood flow. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology recommends allowing a tumor to go away on its own after delivery. Otherwise, granulomas are typically treated by cauterization and laser treatment
Caring for Your Gums While Pregnant
Caring for your gums during pregnancy goes hand-in-hand with overall oral care. If you have swollen gums during pregnancy, attentive daily flossing and brushing may stop and even reverse the onset of gum disease, notes the American Pregnancy Association. Brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid further irritating sensitive tissues.
You can also look to other natural remedies to keep your gums healthy. Gargle with salt water to help keep bacteria at bay without irritating your gums, and follow the ADA's advice to eat plenty of fruits and vegetable rich in vitamin C to boost your gingival health. Keep up with your oral health during pregnancy so you can focus on your bundle of joy on the way!