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IN THIS ARTICLE

Congratulations! You are expecting a baby and all the beautiful things that come with it. You probably are also expecting that your pregnancy hormones will cause emotional outbursts and crazy food cravings. But that's not all they will do. Pregnancy hormones are driving significant changes to your body everywhere—even in your mouth. 

These changes in your hormones will impact your oral health during pregnancy, from toothaches during pregnancy to bad breath and sore gums. In this article, we explore what you can expect to happen with your oral health during pregnancy, how you can manage it with your home care, and what you should and shouldn't do at the dentist while you are expecting. 

Pregnancy and Sensitive Teeth

Many women experience changes in the sensitivity of their teeth during pregnancy. Experts attribute this toothache during pregnancy to several factors, including changes in hormones and disruptions to home care routines. Some other possible contributing factors for tooth pain during pregnancy are:[i]

  • Increased blood flow to the gums 
  • Decreased saliva production due to hormone changes, resulting in dry mouth
  • Heightened inflammatory responses to gums because of hormone fluctuations
  • Changes to diet because of pregnancy cravings
  • Grinding teeth because of stress
  • Morning sickness symptoms (aka, barfing)

Most women’s teeth sensitivity will go away after the baby is born, requiring no further treatment. However, you can do a few things to alleviate the symptoms of sensitive teeth during pregnancy while you have them. Limiting sugary or acidic foods or drinks is an excellent place to start. Drinking through a straw can help avoid temperature sensitivity responses, too. Also, managing stress levels is vital to prevent reactions like grinding your teeth. In addition, you should drink lots of water to keep your mouth hydrated, which can help prevent bad breath associated with pregnancy. Desensitizing toothpaste might help with sensitive teeth during pregnancy, too; just be sure that it has fluoride also to protect your teeth from decay. Finally, if you are unfortunate enough to vomit a lot during pregnancy, be sure to rinse your mouth with water afterward to get the stomach acids off your teeth and wait for around 30 minutes before you brush to preserve your enamel.[ii]

Of course, if you are experiencing lots of discomfort, it's always a good idea to see your dental team find out how to reduce teeth sensitivity during pregnancy safely. 

Pregnancy and Gingivitis

Bleeding gums and pregnancy are common. Many pregnant women develop gum disease, also called periodontal disease. Research shows that as many as 40 percent of pregnant women have some form of it. [3] However, the CDC estimates for pregnant women with gum disease are much higher at 60 to 75 percent.[iii]

Gum disease has two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is an inflammatory condition where the gums are swollen and bleed in response to dental plaque. Periodontitis is also an inflammatory response to dental plaque. However, as a more advanced form of gum disease, periodontitis destroys the gums and supporting bones. Untreated periodontitis can also lead to tooth loss.[iv]

Untreated gum disease has negative effects on your pregnancy. Since the late 90s, studies have indicated an association between a mother's periodontal disease and preterm births and low birth weight. It is important to note that there is no evidence that gum disease causes preterm labor, which sometimes could result in miscarriage, but a 2017 study indicates that gum disease is a risk indicator for adverse pregnancy outcomes.[v]  Therefore, medical and dental experts agree that pregnant women with gum disease should seek care. Gum disease treatment does not harm the pregnancy, reduces the levels of inflammation in the body, and improves the mother's oral health.[vi]

The American Dental Association (ADA) says Pregnancy Gingivitis is a mild form of the first state of gum disease, usually presenting between months two and eight. Women with Pregnancy Gingivitis might notice that their gums are red, swollen, and tender, and may experience bleeding gums during pregnancy.[vii] Some women might see their gums are receding or notice they have bad breath during pregnancy.[viii] Women with a history of gingivitis before pregnancy are more prone to developing Pregnancy Gingivitis.[ix]

The excellent news is Pregnancy Gingivitis usually goes away once the baby is born. Treatment for sore gums during pregnancy usually focuses on diligent home care of brushing two minutes at a time twice a day and cleaning between the teeth daily.[x] You can also brush your tongue and rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash to reduce the bacteria load in your mouth. Plus, eating a lot of vitamin C can also help reduce the swelling in swollen gums during pregnancy, which are the body's response to infection in the mouth. [xi]

Why are my gums swollen?

It will probably come as no surprise that you have swollen gums during pregnancy because of hormone changes. These fluctuations between estrogen and progesterone, the female sex hormones, cause an increase in blood flow to your gums. This increase in flow causes pregnancy gums to be sensitive, irritated, and swollen.[xii]

However, your hormones have other indirect causes of your swollen gums during pregnancy. The changing progesterone levels thwart your body's natural response to bacteria, including the plaque on your teeth. As the plaque builds up on the teeth, your gums are at a higher risk for developing gingivitis, which causes red, swollen gums. [xiii]

There are a few other possible causes of sore gums during pregnancy.  WhattoExpect.com suggests that dry mouth and changes in eating habits can contribute to an increase in plaque buildup. Also, your gums might be reacting to the acid present in vomit from morning sickness. Changes in your home care habits don't help with plaque levels either.[xiv]

ADA Recommends Essential Dental Work While Pregnant

Is It Safe to Go to the Dentist When Pregnant?

The ADA says you can go to the dentist while pregnant. Not only that, but the ADA also recommends getting essential dental work while pregnant, especially women who have Pregnancy Gingivitis or tooth pain while pregnant, which could need treatment by a dental professional.[xv] The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) agree about pregnancy and dental work, adding that health care providers should assess women's oral health and encourage their patients to see the dentist while pregnant. [xvi]  Also, both medical and dental professionals think dental visits can reassure women about the changes they might notice in their mouths and teeth during pregnancy and are an excellent opportunity to reinforce the importance of good home care.[xvii]

Communication is vital here, so be sure to tell the office how far along you are, any medications you take, or if you have any special considerations from your medical doctor. Also, you can get dental X-rays while pregnant. There are protective aprons for your abdomen and thyroid that minimize radiation exposure and keep you and the baby safe. [xviii]  In addition, the ADA says that dental anesthesia is safe during pregnancy as research shows that it does not increase the risks for adverse pregnancy outcomes.[xix]

Per ACOG, physicians should also encourage women to get dental treatment for oral health conditions that need immediate treatment, like extractions, gum disease, root canals, and restorative dental procedures, like fillings and crowns. However, late pregnancy bodies are often less comfortable in the dental chair, so ACOG recommends scheduling these treatments in the second trimester, if possible.[xx]

There are some treatments you should skip, however. For example, the ADA recommends waiting until after your baby is born to do whitening. [xxi]

How to be Proactive about Your Oral Health During Pregnancy

First and foremost, pregnancy is a great time to improve your lifestyle choices. The growing baby needs you to eat plenty of nutritious foods, drink a lot of water, and get on a regular sleep schedule. The baby also requires you to drop unhealthy choices like smoking or drug and alcohol use. These lifestyle changes are not only good for the baby and your overall health, but they are also good for your oral health. 

Another meaningful way to be proactive about your oral health during pregnancy is to reinvigorate your home care efforts. Some dental guidelines for pregnancy patients include:

  • Brushing twice a day for at least two minutes
  • Flossing or cleaning between teeth daily
  • Using a fluoride mouth rinse daily

In addition to daily home care habits, you can get your teeth cleaned while pregnant. It is essential to see your dental team at least once every six months for cleaning and evaluation. Regular visits to the dentist while pregnant not only get plaque buildup off your teeth and away from your gums, but they also give your dental team a look into how pregnancy is affecting your oral health. It also means they have the opportunity to respond to any detrimental changes and provide dental work while pregnant sooner rather than later.

The American Academy for Periodontology (AAP) also recommends a couple of other proactive steps you can take to protect the health of your teeth and gums during pregnancy. First, they suggest you know your risks for developing gum disease. Risk factors that increase your susceptibility include age, smoking, diet, and family history. If you know that some of these apply to you, be sure to discuss them with your dental team on your visits. If you don't know your risks or think you might have gum disease, they also recommend a visit with a periodontist, a specialist in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum disease,[xxii] that can evaluate your teeth, plaque accumulation, gum health, and bone structure, as well as any other possible risk factors for gum disease.[xxiii]

Home Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity

Pregnancy tooth sensitivity often resolves without any intervention necessary. However, there are a few homeopathic treatments that might help alleviate your discomfort during pregnancy, which include: [xxiv]

  • Using a baking soda solution for brushing to neutralize acids in the mouth.
  • Rubbing Aloe Vera on swollen gums to reduce swelling and bacterial growth
  • Drinking milk to get more Calcium and Vitamin K in your system helps with gum health.
  • Rinsing with sugar-free pomegranate juice to prevent plaque and bacterial buildups in the mouth
  • Applying garlic or clove to the affected area; garlic is a natural antibiotic, and clove is a natural antiseptic

As for those irritated gums, some home remedies can help there, too. For example, ACOG recommends rinsing with salt water to relieve irritation. The saltwater solution should be one teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water.[xxv]

Find a Dentist

Pregnancy is an exciting time in your life and brings with it a lot of change, from how TV commercials make you cry now to what you want to eat at 10pm on a Wednesday. Pregnancy also means changes to your teeth and gums. Be sure go to the dentist while pregnant and talk about any concerns you have about sore, bleeding gums and tooth pain while pregnant. If you need any help finding a trusted dentist near me, we have a tool that helps find a trusted dentist in your area. Following the dental guidelines for pregnant patients, your dental team can address what you need to know about pregnancy and dental work, and what else you can expect to change with your oral health while you are expecting.

Find a Dentist Near You

Sources

[i] Sensitive Teeth During Pregnancy: What To Expect And How To Cope. Colgate.com. https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/oral-care-during-pregnancy/sensitive-teeth-during-pregnancy-what-to-expect-and-how-to-cope. Accessed January 20, 2022.

[ii] Sensitive Teeth During Pregnancy: What To Expect And How To Cope. Colgate.com. https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/oral-care-during-pregnancy/sensitive-teeth-during-pregnancy-what-to-expect-and-how-to-cope. Accessed January 20, 2022.

[iii] Pregnancy and Oral Health – Centers for Disease Control. Cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/features/pregnancy-and-oral-health.html. Accessed January 21, 2022.

[iv] Gum Disease Information - American Academy of Periodontology. Perio.org. https://www.perio.org/for-patients/gum-disease-information/. Accessed January 19, 2022.

[v] Turton M, Africa CWJ. Further evidence for periodontal disease as a risk indicator for adverse pregnancy outcomes. Int Dent J. 2017;67(3):148-156. doi:10.1111/idj.12274

[vi] Committee Opinion: Oral Health Care During Pregnancy and Through The Lifespan. Acog.org. https://www.acog.org/-/media/project/acog/acogorg/clinical/files/committee-opinion/articles/2013/08/oral-health-care-during-pregnancy-and-through-the-lifespan.pdf. Published 2013. Accessed January 19, 2022.

[vii] Women's Hormones and Dental Health - American Dental Association. Mouthhealthy.org. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/h/hormones. Accessed January 18, 2022.

[viii] Marcin A. Pregnancy Gingivitis: Prevention and Treatment. Healthline.com. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/gingivitis#what-is-it. Published 2016. Accessed January 20, 2022.

[ix] Committee Opinion: Oral Health Care During Pregnancy and Through The Lifespan. Acog.org. https://www.acog.org/-/media/project/acog/acogorg/clinical/files/committee-opinion/articles/2013/08/oral-health-care-during-pregnancy-and-through-the-lifespan.pdf. Published 2013. Accessed January 19, 2022.

[x] Women's Hormones and Dental Health - American Dental Association. Mouthhealthy.org. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/h/hormones. Accessed January 18, 2022.

[xi] O'Connor A. Bleeding Gums and Sore Mouth During Pregnancy. What to Expect. https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/symptoms-and-solutions/gums-bleeding-sore.aspx. Published 2022. Accessed January 20, 2022.

[xii] Swollen Gums During Pregnancy. americanpregnancy.org. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/swollen-gums-during-pregnancy/. Published 2021. Accessed January 20, 2022.

[xiii] Swollen Gums During Pregnancy. americanpregnancy.org. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/swollen-gums-during-pregnancy/. Published 2021. Accessed January 20, 2022.

[xiv] O'Connor A. Bleeding Gums and Sore Mouth During Pregnancy. What to Expect. https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/symptoms-and-solutions/gums-bleeding-sore.aspx. Published 2022. Accessed January 20, 2022.

[xv] Pregnancy and Your Dental Health - American Dental Association. Mouthhealthy.org. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/pregnancy-slideshow. Accessed January 18, 2022.

[xvi] Committee Opinion: Oral Health Care During Pregnancy and Through The Lifespan. Acog.org. https://www.acog.org/-/media/project/acog/acogorg/clinical/files/committee-opinion/articles/2013/08/oral-health-care-during-pregnancy-and-through-the-lifespan.pdf. Published 2013. Accessed January 19, 2022.

[xvii]  Committee Opinion: Oral Health Care During Pregnancy and Through The Lifespan. Acog.org. https://www.acog.org/-/media/project/acog/acogorg/clinical/files/committee-opinion/articles/2013/08/oral-health-care-during-pregnancy-and-through-the-lifespan.pdf. Published 2013. Accessed January 19, 2022.

[xviii] Pregnancy and Your Dental Health - American Dental Association. Mouthhealthy.org. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/pregnancy-slideshow. Accessed January 18, 2022.

[xix] Is it Safe to Go to The Dentist During Pregnancy? Pregnancy Concerns – American Dental Association. Mouthhealthy.org.  https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/pregnancy/concerns Accessed January 21, 2022.

[xx] Committee Opinion: Oral Health Care During Pregnancy and Through The Lifespan. Acog.org. https://www.acog.org/-/media/project/acog/acogorg/clinical/files/committee-opinion/articles/2013/08/oral-health-care-during-pregnancy-and-through-the-lifespan.pdf. Published 2013. Accessed January 19, 2022.

[xxi] Pregnancy and Your Dental Health - American Dental Association. Mouthhealthy.org. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/pregnancy-slideshow. Accessed January 18, 2022.

[xxii] What is a Periodontist? - American Academy of Periodontology. Perio.org. https://www.perio.org/for-patients/what-is-a-periodontist/. Accessed January 20, 2022.

[xxiii] Gum Disease Prevention - American Academy of Periodontology. Perio.org. https://www.perio.org/for-patients/gum-disease-information/gum-disease-prevention/. Accessed January 20, 2022.

[xxiv] Toothache During Pregnancy: Causes and Treatment. Crest.com. https://crest.com/en-us/oral-care-tips/pregnancy/toothache-during-pregnancy-causes-treatments. Accessed January 20, 2022.

[xxv] Committee Opinion: Oral Health Care During Pregnancy and Through The Lifespan. Acog.org. https://www.acog.org/-/media/project/acog/acogorg/clinical/files/committee-opinion/articles/2013/08/oral-health-care-during-pregnancy-and-through-the-lifespan.pdf. Published 2013. Accessed January 19, 2022.

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