Oral Hygiene and Pregnancy

How does poor oral hygiene affect pregnancy? | 3 min read

Gingivitis in pregnancy starts with dental plaque and is accentuated by the action of hormones, mainly estrogen and progesterone, increased during pregnancy. These hormones trigger greater vulnerability of dental tissues to gingivitis, mainly due to oedema and increased vascularity of dental tissue. 

Gingivitis is a common and mild form of gum disease (periodontal disease) that causes irritation, redness, and swelling (inflammation) of your gingiva, the part of your gum around the base of your teeth. However, the most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene.

What causes pregnancy gingivitis?

Pregnancy gingivitis is caused by estrogen and progesterone, the chief pregnancy hormones. A woman will produce more estrogen during one pregnancy than throughout her life when not pregnant. The increase in estrogen during pregnancy enables the uterus and placenta to improve vascularisation (the formation of blood vessels), transfer nutrients, and support the developing baby. 

These essential hormones help the fetus grow and develop but cause many changes to a woman’s body. One of these changes is increased inflammation of the gums. Increased inflammation of gums during pregnancy may be due to:

  • The decreased ability of the body to respond to plaque bacteria.
  • Increased blood flow to the gum tissue.

Pregnancy gingivitis most commonly develops between months 2 and 8. It may reach a peak during the third trimester. Pregnant women also face an increased risk of tooth decay and loose teeth.

What are the symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis?

  • Swollen gums
  • Tender, puffy gums and red gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Receding gums
  • Bad breath

Hormone levels during pregnancy cannot be changed, but there are ways to prevent pregnancy gingivitis.

How to prevent pregnancy gingivitis?

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice each day. Toothpaste that contains fluoride provides an extra barrier of protection. 
  • Eat a healthy diet. You may not feel the best during pregnancy, especially in your first trimester. But try to eat a diet rich in balanced, whole foods. Eat various fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products.
  • Gargle with sea salt. When starting to notice a slight swelling or bleeding when you brush, add a salt gargle to your routine. Sea salt may reduce inflammation from gingivitis and help to heal your gums.
  • Lower sugary foods and beverages intake. Also, brush after eating sticky, sweet foods that cling to your teeth, such as raisins, dried fruit, gummy fruit snacks, or chewy candy. Take care to use a soft brush not to damage the enamel of your teeth.
  • Quitting smoking or using tobacco products. Smoking is always bad for oral health, but more so during pregnancy.  In addition, smoking doubles your risk of abnormal bleeding during pregnancy and delivery. Smoking also raises your baby’s risk for birth defects.
  • Visit an oral hygienist and dentist. One of the best ways to prevent pregnancy gingivitis is to stay in close contact with your dental team. Dental visits twice a year are essential, even when pregnant. Don’t miss the scheduled cleanings; ask about additional appointments to help monitor oral health during pregnancy. 

When to see a dentist for pregnancy gingivitis?

When you are pregnant, your body changes in many ways; contact a dentist if you notice that your gums are red, swollen, and bleed when you brush. Pregnancy gingivitis is prevalent and highly treatable; good oral hygiene and nutrition can help. Pregnancy gingivitis mostly goes away after pregnancy if good oral hygiene is maintained.


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