Practicing good oral hygiene is important at every stage of life, but it's even more critical for women to stay on top of their dental regimen during pregnancy. Changes in the body during this time can have a deleterious effect on the health of teeth and gums and lead to oral diseases that may negatively impact your pregnancy. Here are two oral health problems you and your family dentist want to keep an eye out for.
Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease characterized by inflammation of the gum tissue that may cause redness, swelling, and bleeding. It is caused by the presence of plaque, which is a sticky substance produced by bacteria in the mouth. When plaque isn't removed daily by brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar, a substance that irritates gums and forms a protective shield around bacteria.
The majority of the time, gingivitis is caused by poor oral hygiene. However, even women who take excellent care of their teeth can develop this disease during pregnancy due to the hormonal changes and imbalances that occur. In particular, increased progesterone levels may make gums more sensitive to plaque and make it easier for bacteria to grow and wreck havoc in the mouth.
When left untreated, gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease, an advanced form of the condition that can lead to the loss of gum tissue and teeth. Even more concerning, however, is that studies indicate pregnant women with gingivitis are at a higher risk of giving birth prematurely. Researchers speculate it's because the plaque-producing bacteria gets into the bloodstream and may threaten the baby. This bacteria also causes infections in the body and may lead the immune system to induce early labor to protect the baby.
The severity of gingivitis increases significantly in the second trimester of pregnancy. Luckily, gingivitis can be prevented or minimized by brushing and flossing on a daily basis as well as using a medicated mouthwash to eliminate any leftover bacteria. If tartar has formed on the teeth, pregnant women should have their teeth professionally cleaned by a dentist to get rid of it.
Despite the scary-sounding name, pregnancy tumors are not cancerous or even tumors. These are growths that form on the gums or near the gum line in response to irritants such as leftover food particles, trauma, or hormones. They may first present as a red swollen spot in the mouth, but quickly grow into a lump.
Though they're not dangerous, they may bleed, crust, and cause pain. According to some statistics, about 1 to 5 percent of pregnant women develop these tumors, and you are more likely to get them if you have gingivitis. They also tend to form starting in the second trimester.
Pregnancy tumors aren't harmful to mother or baby, but they can make eating or speaking challenging and uncomfortable. The tumors typically go away after giving birth, but a dentist can surgically remove the growth if it's causing problems. Be aware, though, that if the underlying cause of the tumor is not addresses, it may form again. Therefore, most dentists will try to fix the cause (e.g. treat the gingivitis) before or in addition to excising the tumor.
As with preventing gingivitis, you can minimize your risk of getting pregnancy tumors by practicing good oral hygiene. Participating in routine and regular dental checkups and cleanings throughout your pregnancy can also reduce your risk and allow the dentist to detect and treat oral health problems early before they cause damage to you or your baby.
For more information about oral health issues that could develop during your pregnancy or to obtain treatment for an existing condition, contact a family dentist in your area.