Pregnancy and Gum Disease
By Mina Levi, DDS, 12/31/2014

In a previous article, we discussed eight ways to keep gums healthy during pregnancy, which gave some tips on prevention of gum disease during pregnancy. What it didn’t cover, and what Dentist San Francisco Mina Levi, DDS is going to cover in this article, is what exactly happens to your gums during pregnancy, why the prevention is important, and what the outcomes of non-treatment are.

Pregnancy and Gingivitis

Will pregnancy affect my oral health?
Gingivitis occurs in 60 to 75% of pregnant women, tending to surface most frequently in the second trimester of pregnancy. Expectant mothers (and some women taking oral contraception) experience elevated levels of hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone. This causes the gums to react differently to plaque bacteria and in many cases causes gingivitis. Symptoms include swollen, red gums and bleeding when brushing the teeth. If a woman already has gingivitis, it will most likely get worse with pregnancy, especially without treatment. Bacteria in the mouth causes the gingivitis, the hormones provoke it. The infected gum pockets provide access to the bloodstream, allowing bacteria to travel through the body. Your body reacts to the infections in your gums by producing prostaglandins, a natural fatty acid that's involved with inflammation control a smooth muscle contraction.  During your pregnancy the level of prostaglandins gradually increases, peaking when you go into labor.  One theory is that, if extra prostaglandins are produced as a reaction to the bacterial infection in your gums, your body may interpret it as a signal to go into labor and your baby can be born to early or too small.

Could pregnancy gingivitis affect my baby?
There is a connection between gingivitis during pregnancy and low birth weight/pre-term delivered babies. Excessive bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the gums. If this does happen, it can travel to the uterus, triggering the production of prostaglandins, which cause uterine contractions that induce premature labor.

Is it safe to have dental treatment while pregnant?
Oral care is vital during the pregnancy, and regular dental cleanings and check ups to avoid oral infections that can affect the fetus is incredibly important. Dentist San Francisco Mina Levi, DDS recommends that any major dental treatment that isn’t urgent should be postponed until after the baby is born. For more urgent procedures, the second trimester is the best time to have procedures done to minimize risk to the baby.

We have talked about prevention before, but we will re-iterate. You can prevent gingivitis by keeping your teeth clean, especially near your gum-line and:
1. Brush your teeth at least twice per day and after meals when possible
2. Floss daily
3. If you suffer from morning sickness, repeatedly rinse out your mouth with water and brush your teeth as often as possible to neutralize the acid caused by vomiting.
4. If brushing your teeth causes morning sickness, rinse your mouth with water, brush without toothpaste and then use an anti-plaque fluoride mouthwash
5. Eat a well-balanced diet with vitamins C and B12
6. See the dentist for help controlling plaque and preventing gingivitis, and go to your scheduled routine exams and cleanings to maintain good dental health.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding gingivitis and pregnancy, visit Dentist San Francisco Mina Levi, DDS on the web at