Dental problems have been tied to preterm birth and low birthweight, but gum disease is something you can address. Why take the chance? Here's what you should know.
When you’re pregnant, you see many doctors. Few people know that visiting the dentist can be essential, too.
“Dangerous bacteria from a mother’s gum infection can travel via the bloodstream and infect her unborn baby, causing all sorts of problems and even resulting in the baby’s death,” explains Susan Maples, DDS, who has practiced dentistry in Holt, Mich., for nearly 30 years.
Why take a chance? Gum disease is a problem you can address. The key is to brush and floss daily — twice a day is even better — and get professional dental cleanings to clear out pockets in the gums around your teeth. If your gums are swollen, red, or tender, go to the dentist, fast.
Don’t wait until you’re pregnant. Gum disease may also affect conception. One study concluded that women with gum disease took two months longer to get pregnant. Obesity also hurts fertility, by about the same amount.
Pregnancy gingivitis usually appears between the second and eighth month of pregnancy. You may notice that your gums look redder and bleed a little when you brush your teeth, or that your gums look swollen.
You should also get a C-reactive protein (CRP) test. Gum problems may cause high levels of CRP and lead to complications in pregnancy.
During the second trimester, you may notice a lump on your gums with deep red dots, usually near your upper gum line. It can glisten, bleed, and crust over. These lumps have been called “tumors,” although they’re not cancer but an inflammatory reaction to an irritation on your gums.
A lump may also be called a pyogenic granuloma, granuloma of pregnancy, lobular capillary hemangioma, or pregnancy epulis. Don’t panic. The lumps often disappear after the baby’s birth. But they may indicate gingivitis.
Many women worry about whether it’s safe to take local anesthetics for dental work when they’re pregnant. Dentists usually use lidocaine, which does pass through your placenta, but it is considered non-toxic to the developing baby. Lidocaine is also frequently used to block pain during labor when you get an “epidural” shot.
August 10, 2023
Janet O’Dell, RN