A pregnant woman has a lot to think about and prepare for as her body rapidly transforms. But often, mothers-to-be don't realize that all these hormonal changes can affect their oral health. Morning sickness can erode tooth enamel, sugar cravings can put them at risk of decay and gums can bleed more easily, according to the State Government of Victoria. In addition to these, there is another lesser-known complication: a pregnancy tumor.
What Are Pregnancy Tumors?
Pregnancy tumors — also known as pyogenic granulomas — are not cancerous. As an article in the Journal of International Oral Health (JIOH) describes, they are hemorrhagic swellings that occur mostly in the gum tissue of pregnant women.
The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that these red, raw-looking overgrowths of tissue have a raspberry-like appearance and most often occur on the gums between the teeth in the second trimester of pregnancy. They tend to bleed easily and can interfere with chewing, according to the JIOH article. In some cases, they can also lead to secondary infections.
An article in the Maternal and Child Health Journal explains that the combination of plaque buildup and hormones can cause pregnant women's gum tissues to inflame or swell. Because this reaction is even more prevalent in the tissue between your teeth, approximately 5% of pregnant women develop an enlarged swelling or pregnancy tumor.
Along with hormonal shifts, inadequate brushing and flossing can also lead to this type of swelling. Other irritants that can aggravate the gum tissue are poorly fitted fillings and hardened dental plaque that has accumulated under the gums.
Because pregnancy tumors are often caused by the hormonal changes in a pregnant woman's body, they often disappear after the baby is born, according to the ADA. However, anytime you experience bleeding gums or unexplained swelling, you should see your dentist for an evaluation.
In most cases, a professional cleaning to remove plaque and calculus, along with strengthening your home care routine and using a soft-bristled toothbrush, will help reduce inflammation. If you have severe symptoms or the swelling is causing discomfort, your dentist may opt for surgical removal, explains the Maternal and Child Health Journal article.
Maintaining Oral Heath During Pregnancy
If you are planning on having a baby in the near future, seeing your dentist and addressing your oral health first can help. That way, you can get any necessary X-rays and treatment taken care of beforehand and feel confident that you're on the right track to keep up with your oral health during pregnancy.
Once you've become pregnant, you can follow these tips to help maintain a healthy mouth throughout your pregnancy:
- Advise your dentist soon after finding out you are pregnant and schedule an appointment for a checkup. If you are due for X-rays, rest assured that routine X-rays are safe as long as your dentist places a lead apron over your abdomen, explains the ADA.
- Schedule a thorough cleaning and have any other necessary treatment completed during your second trimester, as recommended by the American Pregnancy Association.
- Implement a meticulous home care routine. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush, and floss once a day.
- Use a mouthwash after morning sickness to reduce oral bacteria, as the State Government of Victoria suggests.
- Limit sugary foods and snacks, and eat healthy foods for your teeth and your developing baby.
There is a lot to think about and plan for during pregnancy — and the last thing you want to add to those concerns is an oral pregnancy tumor. But by putting in a little extra effort into your oral hygiene routine, you'll reduce your chances of ever having to deal with this complication.