Pregnancy brings with it countless bodily changes, and most of them are not pleasant. It’s worth it for the little bundles of joy, but in the meantime, taking great care of yourself is essential to ensure your child’s health. While some of the concerns associated with pregnancy are well known, like shifting hormones, elevated blood pressure, and morning sickness, few women know about a common oral health concern associated with pregnancy, periodontal disease. Gum disease is one of the most common oral health concerns in the US, and an estimated 40% of women suffer from gum disease while pregnant. In fact, the phenomenon is so common, it has its own name: pregnancy gingivitis.
What is Pregnancy Gingivitis?
Periodontal disease occurs when bacteria and plaque on teeth irritate soft tissue. This leads to mild inflammation and bleeding commonly referred to as gingivitis. Pregnancy gingivitis occurs for the same reason, but it happens so frequently for pregnant women because the elevated progesterone level makes it easier for certain oral bacteria to grow. Additionally, the body’s evolutionary response to pregnancy is to protect the child, and thus, the woman’s body increases in sensitivity and exaggerates the response to infection, disease, and toxins. More bacteria are present, gum tissue is more easily irritated, and the immune response is extreme. This is the ideal condition for gum disease. Patients who already have periodontal disease when they become pregnant are more likely to experience the more severe form of gum disease, i.e. periodontitis, in which pockets are formed in the gums due to the breakdown of the tissue that connects teeth and gums.
What are the Risks Associated with Periodontal Disease while Pregnant?
Periodontal disease is detrimental to the health of any patient, but pregnant women are at increased risk for high blood pressure and diabetes – two systemic diseases commonly associated with gum disease. In addition to increased risk for systemic illnesses, periodontal disease is closely linked to pre-term or low weight births. It’s essential that pregnant women be proactive in their treatment of periodontal disease.
What Can I do to Avoid Pregnancy Gingivitis?
Patients who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, should have a thorough periodontal exam. Let our periodontist Dr. Alexander Schrott know about your situation, and he will develop a treatment plan to meet your unique needs throughout pregnancy. If your teeth and gums look healthy, we may not need to recommend any changes, but it’s best to be prepared. If you are experiencing any tooth pain, swelling, discoloration, or bleeding of the gums, contact our team at Kraft, Schrott & Associates for an appointment right away.