How Pregnancy Affects Gum and Teeth
The hormonal changes of pregnancy affect the mucous membranes throughout the body, and that also includes the gums. Increased progesterone can lead to the gums’ amplified sensitivity to plaque. Besides the redness, swelling, tenderness or bleeding from gum disease, you can also experience decreased saliva flow with a sensation of dry mouth. With saliva’s beneficial effects on the teeth and gums reduced, gum disease can take hold and intensify more easily. The hormonal changes also cause some women to experience their sense of taste changing, a burning sensation in the mouth and more sensitivity to hot and cold in the mouth.
Typically gum problems start to flare up in the second month, worsen up to the eighth month and will subside to a low level a few months after delivery. But gum disease should not be ignored just because it may have started to diminish, as it has been associated with an increased risk of serious complications for the baby, such as low birth weight of a preterm baby. Studies show that women with gum disease are seven times more likely to delivery a preterm low birth weight baby. When periodontal disease is detected in only two sites in the mouth, there’s still an increased risk of preterm birth. When 30% or more of the mouth has gum disease, the risk rises above the sevenfold figure. (Low birth weight is defined as being less than 2.5 kilograms, or five and a half pounds.)
There are even “smoking guns” that show the link between gum disease and low-birth-weight preterm babies. The mothers of these babies have higher levels of four bacteria types associated with gum disease (Porphyromonas gingivalis, Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans, Bacteroides forsythus, and Treponema denticola), and also have higher levels of a prostaglandin that originate from underlying gum tissue in response to gum inflammation.
Low-birth-weight preterm babies can be born needing monitoring and assistance for fluids, for minerals and for temperature regulation. Complications can range from respiratory distress to problems of the intestines (NEC), of the heart (patent ductus arteriosus), of the eyes (ROP) or the brain (IVH).
Putting off gum care because there’s so much to do to get ready for the baby is like pretending that there’s no connection between the health of the mother’s body and the health of the new body forming within for the baby. It’s more important than ever to care for your gums.