Oral Health Symptoms You Didn’t Know Were Caused By Pregnancy

Swollen Gums, Bleeding When Brushing Are Changes You May Experience as a Result of Pregnancy-Related Gingivitis

March 16, 2022
Dr. Rebecca Block
Dr. Rebecca Block, Clinical Assistant Professor at Touro College of Dental Medicine

A woman will attend an average of 10 to 15 prenatal appointments in the forty-or-so week span of her pregnancy. She will speak on topics that run the gamut from baby’s first audible heartbeat to a new mother’s postnatal selfcare - but is she missing a key component of her overall health plan if extra attention isn’t paid to a part of the body most don’t normally associate with pregnancy-related issues? Pregnancy can have a more significant impact on a woman’s oral health than most think, and cause symptoms that are unexpected.

According to Dr. Rebecca Block, Clinical Assistant Professor at Touro College of Dental Medicine, many women see changes in their oral health during pregnancy though they may not be associating these as symptoms directly related to it. Changes which can look like swollen gums, or bleeding when brushing, usually called Pregnancy Gingivitis, may actually deter women from keeping up with their oral health routine - making the impact on teeth and gums even worse.

Caused by the hormonal changes that increase blood flow to the gum tissue, nearly 60 to 75% of pregnant women have gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“The gums can become sensitive enough to bleed easily when touched or brushed. It’s fairly common but can result in a decrease in the frequency of healthy habits - some may even stop flossing completely.”

But according to Dr. Block, this will only make matters worse.

“Flossing helps to both reduce gingival inflammation, and also to prevent interproximal caries, or cavities, that can develop between adjacent teeth.”

Dental x-rays, or radiographs, are generally not taken during pregnancy - although there are no known risks to the developing fetus - which limits the detection of caries, hence the added importance of brushing, as well as flossing regularly, during the pregnancy months.

“It’s best for both general medical and dental health professionals to remind pregnant women to continue with proper oral hygiene during pregnancy, but also to prepare them for the normality - despite good home care - of pregnancy gingivitis.”

While hormones play a large part in this narrative, sometimes the changes in oral health are just a result of poor oral hygiene during the pregnancy. Fatigue is one of the most common pregnancy symptoms; that, coupled with insomnia, and what is commonly referred to as ‘mommy brain,’ may lead to a change in routine oral hygiene as well. Pregnancy cravings may also cause less healthy eating habits.

Block says the best way to manage these changes is to keep up with regular brushing and flossing, and not let the presence of symptoms deter from staying on top of a good oral health program, including regular dental check-ups.

“Another easy suggestion is to use over-the-counter, fluoride mouth rinses.  These aid in the protection of teeth from cavities, especially for patients who are cavity-prone.”

As with most pregnancy changes that occur, most gingival inflammation during pregnancy is hormonal based, and will reverse after pregnancy - that is, according to Dr. Block, “so long as good oral hygiene is maintained.”