Pregnancy is an exciting time for every mother-to-be. It can, however, be very stressful both psychologically and physically. As the development of your unborn child unfolds, your body begins to go through some changes.
Organs and systems begin to function differently, as they adapt to the fetus’ needs. The whole process causes changes in the musculoskeletal, endocrine, excretory, circulatory, nervous and gastrointestinal systems.
Often overlooked, oral health can also be impacted by the complexities of pregnancy. Higher amounts of sugar intake and acid from vomiting during pregnancy can lead to tooth decay (the most common oral disease).
A much more serious concern for a pregnant woman is gum disease. It is widely known that it can lead to gum bleeding, sensitivity, tooth mobility, and even tooth loss. More importantly, research shows that gum disease may be very detrimental to your baby’s health.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an inflammatory disease, which affects the gums (gingivitis). It can progress and affect the underlying supporting structures (periodontitis).
This disease is associated with the formation of pockets around the tooth. One of the leading causes of gum disease is the plaque.
As it builds up, it presents a safe haven for bacteria and their toxic by-products. With changes in diet, hormones, and blood circulation, pregnant women can be at a high risk of suffering from gum disease.
Symptoms of Gum Disease in Pregnancy
To prevent gum disease from progressing, it is important to be aware of some of the symptoms that may be present.
- Pregnant women who suffer from gum disease may notice their gums to be swollen and red
- Tenderness and bleeding while brushing may be present
- There might be an increased tooth sensitivity or pain during chewing
- At later stages, gum disease can cause tooth mobility
Other Contributing Factors that Affect Gum Disease
Plaque is a contributing factor in the development of gum disease, but there are some others which can also play a role.
- Smoking: Tobacco smoke can disrupt the natural balance that exists within the oral microbiology. It also has an adverse effect on the immune response. This all adds up to an increased rate of gum disease among smokers. In general, smoking during pregnancy should be avoided.
- Diabetes: A metabolic disease, where blood sugar is inadequately controlled. This is the result of the body’s inability to produce or react to insulin. Women are commonly susceptible to diabetes during their pregnancy. Since diabetes sufferers may be more prone to infections, a resulting complication can be gum disease.
- Hormonal Changes: The main hormones that are influenced by pregnancy are estrogen and progesterone. As blood levels change, so does the response to irritants, causing a heightened sensitivity toward bacteria toxins. This is especially visible in the gums, where inflammation is widespread among pregnant women. Besides redness and bleeding, some women may experience an increase in the gums’ volume (hyperplasia).
How to Cure Gum Disease in Pregnancy
Considering all the negative effects of gum disease, it is essential to seek treatment as soon as possible. It can have a significant impact on you and your unborn child, but there are ways to treat it. Getting familiar with some of them may prevent the further progression of the disease.
Brushing and Flossing:
Since the major component of developing gum disease is the plaque, controlling its levels is of utmost importance. Microorganisms adhere to the tooth’s surface where they create communities called biofilms. Within this biofilm, bacteria are very resistant to outside influences, including chemicals such as antibiotics.
The best way to battle this phenomenon is to mechanically remove it from the tooth’s surface. This can be achieved by brushing using a soft toothbrush twice per day. For hard to reach surfaces, such as where neighboring teeth are in contact with each other, flossing is very effective.
As the immune system tries to neutralize the bacterial invasion, damaging enzymes and chemicals are released into tissues surrounding the tooth. Antioxidants can neutralize them. One of the most common antioxidants is vitamin C.
It can be found in foods like kiwis, broccoli, lemons, oranges, strawberries, and others. Vitamin C also helps in the production of collagen, which is found in large quantities in the gums.
One very important factor in the fight against gum disease (and cavities) is saliva. It has a pivotal role in preventing microorganisms from adhering to the surface of teeth.
Moderate quantities of Vitamin A boost the immune system and stimulate saliva secretion. It can be found in cheese, carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe.
Mixing sea salt with water and using it for mouth rinsing may help with reducing inflammation of the gums.
Visit the Dentist
The most important weapon against gum disease is prevention. This can be achieved by scheduling exams with a dentist regularly before, during, and after pregnancy.
A professional can prevent or diagnose and treat gum disease in a timely fashion. Visits may include professional cleaning, instructions on maintaining proper oral hygiene, fillings and other procedures as necessary.
A dentist will also assist in ensuring a healthy pregnancy and a strong dentition for the unborn child. Any dentist can help.
Increased hormone levels that occur during pregnancy cause your body to respond differently to the plaque. It is important, for you and for the fetus, to monitor your oral health while pregnant.
Maintaining a balanced diet, seeing your dentist regularly, following good oral hygiene practices at home will help ensure your teeth and gums remain healthy throughout your pregnancy.