Pregnancy Gingivitis

Overview

What is pregnancy gingivitis?

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. When you don’t brush your teeth properly, a sticky film of bacteria called plaque forms on them. The accumulation of plaque along your gumline causes your gums to become red, swollen and tender.

During pregnancy, the surge of hormones in your body makes you more susceptible to gingivitis.

How common is pregnancy gingivitis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gingivitis affects 60% to 75% of pregnant people.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes pregnancy gingivitis?

Pregnancy gingivitis is caused by an increase in estrogen and progesterone levels. These are essential hormones that help your baby grow and develop, but they also cause many changes to your body.

One of these changes is increased inflammation of your gums. Although the exact way this happens isn’t clear, healthcare providers think it may be due to:

  • Decreased ability of your body to respond to plaque bacteria.
  • Increased blood flow to the gum tissue.

What are the symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis?

The main symptoms involve changes to your gums, such as:

  • Bleeding when brushing or flossing.
  • Redness.
  • Shiny gum surface.
  • Swelling.
  • Tenderness.

You may also notice bad breath that continues even after brushing. Your symptoms may become more severe during your second trimester and continue for the rest of your pregnancy.

Can pregnancy gingivitis affect the health of my baby?

There is no evidence that mild red or swollen gums harm your baby’s health or cause a miscarriage or premature birth.

But if left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis which is linked to preterm delivery and low birth weight. In periodontitis, inflammation causes your gums to pull away from your teeth, leaving pockets that can become infected. Eventually, this can lead to tooth loss.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is pregnancy gingivitis diagnosed?

Your Ob/Gyn or dentist will ask you about your symptoms and look at your gums and teeth to confirm the diagnosis.

Are dental X-rays safe during pregnancy?

If your symptoms are severe, you may need dental X-rays. Your dentist will take precautions to shield your baby from the radiation.

Dental and obstetric experts agree that X-rays during pregnancy are safe with the correct shielding. And it may be easier to have dental work done while you are pregnant than after your baby arrives.

Management and Treatment

How is pregnancy gingivitis treated?

The main treatment to reduce gum inflammation is a dental cleaning to remove plaque buildup. Your dentist will also recommend good oral hygiene to help reduce your symptoms, including:

  • Brushing your teeth twice daily.
  • Flossing once daily.
  • Gargling daily with a warm saltwater rinse (one teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water).

If your symptoms are severe or getting worse, your dentist may prescribe:

Prevention

How can I prevent pregnancy gingivitis?

There’s nothing you can do to change your hormone levels during pregnancy, but you can take other steps to prevent pregnancy gingivitis. The best things you can do are:

  • Maintain your oral health by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day.
  • Schedule a dental visit while you’re pregnant.

You can also improve your oral health by:

  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Lowering your intake of sugary foods and beverages.
  • Brushing after eating sticky, sweet foods that cling to your teeth, such as raisins, dried fruit, gummy fruit snacks or chewy candy.
  • Quitting smoking or using tobacco products.

Outlook / Prognosis

Will pregnancy gingivitis go away after pregnancy?

The good news is that your gums should return to normal after pregnancy.

What is the outlook for pregnancy gingivitis?

You can manage pregnancy gingivitis and even prevent it with a visit to the dentist and good oral hygiene. If periodontitis develops, it may lead to tooth loss. You may also be at higher risk of premature delivery and having a baby with low birth weight.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Talk to your Ob/Gyn or dentist if you are having any problems with your gums while you are pregnant.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

When you are pregnant, your body changes in many ways. If you notice that your gums are red, swollen, and bleed when you brush, you’re not alone. Pregnancy gingivitis is very common and highly treatable. Don’t ignore your symptoms, because gingivitis can turn into a more serious condition. Good oral hygiene and nutrition can help. You should also see a dentist for a routine teeth cleaning. After your delivery, your symptoms should improve.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/07/2022.

References

  • American Pregnancy Association. Pregnancy and Dental Work. (https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/dental-work-and-pregnancy/) Accessed 1/30/2022.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnancy and Oral Health. (https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/features/pregnancy-and-oral-health.html) Accessed 1/30/2022.
  • Rathee M, Jain P. Gingivitis. (https://www.statpearls.com/articlelibrary/viewarticle/22251) [Updated 2021 Nov 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Accessed 1/30/2022.
  • Wu M, Chen SW, Jiang SY. Relationship between gingival inflammation and pregnancy. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4385665/) Mediators Inflamm. 2015;2015:623427. Accessed 1/30/2022.

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