Should my gums bleed when I’m pregnant?

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Pregnant woman having bowl of salad at home in the kitchen

Just like the rest of your body, your teeth, gums and mouth are affected by hormonal changes during pregnancy. You will usually notice changes in the health of your gums around the two month mark.

These hormonal changes alter the body’s natural response to plaque (a sticky film made up of bacteria and its waste products that grow on tooth surfaces) and may cause your gums to bleed easily when you brush or floss, a sign of gum disease commonly known as “pregnancy gingivitis”.

Though it is often temporary, as are many other oral health issues during pregnancy, it can seriously weaken the tissues that hold your teeth in place and you shouldn’t ignore it. It usually only affects you if you’ve previously had some gum inflammation and generally if you’ve kept up a regular routine of brushing, flossing and dental visits before pregnancy, it shouldn’t affect you.

You may also develop what are called “pregnancy tumours” (officially called pyogenic granulomas), which are red lumpy lesions that appear along the gum line and between the teeth. Don’t worry – they’re quite harmless, and usually go away once you’ve had your baby.

It is important to maintain a diligent oral hygiene routine with twice daily brushing and daily flossing to help keep this at bay.  It is also advisable to see your Dental Hygienist during pregnancy for a thorough scale and clean appointment.

The effect these hormonal changes have on your oral health during pregnancy means your dentist should join your GP and your obstetrician on your list of health professionals whom you consult regularly. You need to make regular visits to your dentist in the lead-up to, during and after your pregnancy a priority.

If gingivitis becomes severe and progresses to periodontal disease (“gum/jaw bone disease”), the infection can affect the unborn baby’s development.  Severe gum disease in an expectant mothers can increase the risk of premature birth and of delivering a low birth weight baby. There may be possible long-term health risks for a child born prematurely or of low birth weight.

Read more in the ADA’s Factsheets:

  1. Gum Disease – Don’t Ignore Bleeding Gums
  2. Flossing – Why It’s Essential for Your Oral Health
  3. Brushing – Keeping Your Teeth Clean and Healthy