Bleeding Gums During Pregnancy
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Your body goes through many physical changes during pregnancy, some more unpleasant than others. One side effect of pregnancy you may not have been warned about is bleeding gums. It can be scary to see your gums bleeding as you brush your teeth but fear not, your teeth are not about to drop out and this is not an unusual occurrence.
Bleeding gums is just one of the many physical changes caused by your hormones during pregnancy. As your hormones change in order to nurture the foetus, there are inevitable consequences. No-one said pregnancy was easy!
Are bleeding gums normal during pregnancy?
Bleeding and sensitive gums occur during pregnancy due to changes in the levels of progesterone and oestrogen within your body. These hormone levels cause your gums to become swollen and inflamed. This can mean that when you clean or floss your teeth, your gums are more likely to bleed. Rest assured that this is a common complaint during pregnancy and one of the reasons why you're entitled to free dental care for the duration of your pregnancy and for a year after your baby is born.
There can be more severe cases of bleeding gums during pregnancy known as 'pregnancy gingivitis', where the gums bleed spontaneously. This condition usually starts during early pregnancy and gets worse during the following months, reaching its peak of severity in the eighth month. It then eases of in the final month of pregnancy. If you do suffer from pregnancy gingivitis and choose to breastfeed your baby you may find that the symptoms continue.
What can I do about my bleeding gums?
The first thing to emphasise is that you shouldn't stop cleaning your teeth properly. It's more important than ever during this sensitive period that you take care of your teeth and gums to prevent the condition from getting worse. Brushing your teeth properly in the morning and before going to bed will remove most of the plaque coating your teeth. This plaque can make your gums more likely to bleed if left to fester there.
You can make the process of brushing your teeth a little less uncomfortable by using a softer toothbrush which will be gentler on your gums. Don't give up on the flossing either; you should floss gently three times a week. Also, you could try an electric toothbrush as they are much better at removing plaque than standard toothbrushes. This can help to reduce the swelling in your gums.
If you have continued to smoke during pregnancy, stop now. Apart from the damage you could cause to your baby, smoking can make your gum problems worse. Also, try to eat healthily. Avoid sugary foods and drinks as much as possible and if you must have them, limit them to mealtimes.
Should I see a dentist?
Yes, you should go to your dentist regularly during pregnancy, especially if your gums start to bleed. Take advantage of the free dental treatment, it's one of the few perks of pregnancy! Your dentist will be able to advise you on how best to care for your teeth and gums. They will also tell you if you need any further treatment to prevent the condition from worsening.
Dental surgeries usually have a dental hygienist who will be able to give you a scale and polish. Aside from leaving your teeth looking and feeling cleaner, the treatment should help your tender gums. Your dentist or hygienist should be able to give you information about mouthwashes which are safe to use during pregnancy.
Can my bleeding gums get worse and cause other problems?
If your bleeding gums aren't treated the condition could turn into a gum disease called periodontitis. It's worth getting dental treatment as soon as your gums start bleeding as you don't want to have to deal with this disease during pregnancy or while looking after your new baby.
Periodontitis is a disease where the gum and bone which keep your teeth attached to your jaw gradually weaken, eventually leading to teeth loss. Symptoms of periodontitis include abscesses forming on your gums; pockets forming between your gums and the bottom of your teeth causing the gums to start to retreat from your teeth and teeth starting to get loose and eventually falling out.
Don't panic if your gums are bleeding during brushing as you're unlikely to be suffering from periodontitis at this stage. However, it's a nasty disease so it's worth avoiding by looking after your teeth and getting treatment early.
Can my baby be affected by my bleeding gums?
Your bleeding gums will have no direct effect on your baby, so don't worry. However, bleeding gums can be a symptom of you not being as healthy as you should be during pregnancy and this can have an impact on the growth of your baby.
Some experts claim there is anecdotal evidence of a link between periodontitis and pregnancy complications including premature birth and babies born with a low weight. Studies into this link have shown differing results so there is no firm evidence to support this claim.
However, it's not disputed that premature birth can result from mums-to-be suffering from stress at home and failing to eat healthily during pregnancy. Bleeding gums can be a result of an unhealthy diet, which in itself can be a consequence of not being able to afford to buy healthier food. If this sounds like you, talk to your midwife as they may be able to help you.
Bleeding gums - just another part of pregnancy
Those of us who have gone through pregnancy know that it's no walk in the park. Your body encounters all sorts of unpleasant side effects, whether it is bleeding gums, heartburn or the constant need to run to the toilet. All you can do is seek help when you need it, knowing that it will all be worth it at the end of nine months when you cuddle your newborn baby.