Pregnancy Gingivitis: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Pregnancy Gingivitis: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention
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Pregnancy Gingivitis: Symptoms, Treatment & PreventionClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. What Is Gingivitis?
  2. Pregnancy & Gingivitis
  3. Symptoms & Signs
  4. Treatment While Pregnant
  5. Dental Treatments While Pregnant
  6. Tips for Prevention
  7. References

Gingivitis is common during pregnancy, as changes in hormone levels can cause the gums to become swollen and red.

General gingivitis is the swelling of gum tissue that is most commonly caused by a buildup of plaque on the teeth.1 Left untreated, it can lead to gum disease, or periodontitis.

Good oral care during pregnancy can help to minimize the odds and severity of gingivitis. A dental professional can work with you to treat gingivitis safely while you are pregnant.

What Is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is swelling, or inflammation, of the gums. It is the early stage of gum disease.

Symptoms are usually mild, and it can be treated with good oral hygiene in its early stages. Left alone, however, it can develop into periodontitis, which is a destructive form of gum disease that can cause bigger issues, including the potential for lost teeth.

Gingivitis is caused by the buildup of dental plaque on your teeth. This forms as the acids in food mix with the bacteria in your mouth. It can also be caused by age, poor diet, smoking, certain diseases, medications, and hormonal changes, such as those happening during pregnancy.

Pregnancy & Gingivitis

Gingivitis is extremely common during pregnancy. It is often caused by the hormonal changes that lead to increased blood flow to your gum tissues.

If you already have a buildup of plaque on your teeth, it can increase your risk for pregnancy gingivitis. The changes in hormone levels during pregnancy make it easier for plaque to continue to build. The odds for pregnancy gingivitis are highest in the second trimester.

Hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, increase during pregnancy. This increases your blood plasma levels and can cause swelling throughout the body, including in your gums. This swelling can make it easier for plaque to become trapped on the base of your teeth.

Symptoms & Signs of Gingivitis

Symptoms of gingivitis are common during pregnancy, as changes in hormone levels may cause the gums to become swollen and red. Some symptoms are mild, so it can be easy to overlook them and not realize that you even have gum disease.

Some of the things to look out for include the following:2

  • Swollen gums
  • Red gums
  • Sensitive gums
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Bad breath

If you suspect gingivitis, see a dental professional. Untreated gingivitis can cause much bigger dental issues that will require more extensive treatment down the road.

Treating Gingivitis While Pregnant

Since gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, it can usually be treated with good oral hygiene and routine dental care. You will need to see your dentist at least once during your pregnancy. Be sure to make an appointment if you think you are showing signs of pregnancy gingivitis.

The dentist will examine your teeth and gums for signs of plaque buildup and gum disease. A dental hygienist will thoroughly and carefully clean your teeth and under your gums. Often, a professional dental cleaning, followed with proper oral hygiene — brushing and flossing your teeth regularly — can clear up the issue. You may require additional dental cleanings during pregnancy if you have pregnancy gingivitis.4

Your bleeding and swollen gums will usually pass after the baby is born if you continue to take care of your oral health throughout your pregnancy and beyond.

Dental Treatments During Pregnancy

Going to the dentist during pregnancy is essential to maintain good dental health. There are several precautions they will take for you and your baby.

For example, your dentist may choose to hold off on x-rays during pregnancy, although the radiation used is mild, not anywhere near your pelvis, and you can be fully protected.3 If you do need x-rays, your dentist can take extra precautions to ensure it is safe.

New fillings may be postponed until after the baby is born. They will also refrain from taking out amalgam fillings, as these may leave traces of mercury that can harm a developing fetus. Your dentist will design a dental plan that is safe for you and the health of your developing baby.

Tips for Prevention

Increases in estrogen and progesterone that occur during pregnancy can cause gum tissues to become inflamed, making it easier for plaque to build up. These hormonal changes can be mostly neutralized by controlling the buildup of plaque with good oral hygiene.

The best way to prevent pregnancy gingivitis is to practice good oral hygiene. Regularly brush and floss your teeth, and avoid sugary, starchy snacks as much as possible. Drink plenty of water, and chew sugar-free gum if you are unable to brush and floss after meals.

See your dentist for routine dental exams during pregnancy. They can help you monitor the development and progression of any issues to ensure good oral health throughout your entire pregnancy.

General References

Swollen Gums During Pregnancy. (2021). American Pregnancy Association. Date Fetched: July 26, 2021.

Relationship Between Gingival Inflammation and Pregnancy. (March 2015). Mediators of Inflammation. Date Fetched: July 26, 2021.

Keystone Species in Pregnancy Gingivitis: A Snapshot of Oral Microbiome During Pregnancy and Postpartum Period. (October 2018). Frontiers in Microbiology.

Periodontal Status During Pregnancy and Postpartum. (May 2017). PLOS ONE.

Medical References

1 What Is Gum Disease?61881-X/fulltext) (January 2011). The Journal of the American Dental Association. Date Fetched: July 26, 2021.

2 Gingivitis. Mouth Healthy American Dental Association (ADA). Date Fetched: July 26, 2021.

3 Bleeding Gums. (August 2019). National Health Service. Date Fetched: July 26, 2021.

4 Is It Safe to Go to the Dentist During Pregnancy? Mouth Healthy American Dental Association (ADA). Date Fetched: July 26, 2021.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.