Pregnancy and Swollen Gums (Pregnancy Gingivitis)

Swollen gums which may be sore and more susceptible to bleeding are common during pregnancy. This inflammation of the gums is called gingivitis. Pregnancy gingivitis is caused by the hormonal change of estrogen and progesterone which increases the blood flow to the gum tissue and causes your gums to be more sensitive and vulnerable to irritation and swelling.

The hormonal changes also hinder the body's normal response to the bacteria which causes periodontal infections. This makes it easier for plaque to build up on your teeth and makes you more susceptible to gingivitis. The severity of pregnancy gingivitis usually increases between the second and third trimesters, but it begins to decrease during the ninth month.

What can you do to manage your swollen gums better? Good dental care is essential during pregnancy. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. A soft tooth brush may cause less irritation to your gums. You should also keep your scheduled professional cleanings and discuss any problems with your dentist.

If gingivitis is left unchecked it may lead to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis. Periodontitis may cause you to loose some teeth. The good news is that with good oral hygiene and routine professional cleanings, there should be nothing for you to worry about.

Here are a few things that you can do to manage swollen gums and have healthier oral hygiene:

  • Have an oral checkup with your hygienist
  • Have a daily or periodic warm salt water rinse (1 teaspoon to 1 cup)
  • Brushing your teeth immediately after vomiting from morning sickness
  • Take calcium supplements

Your gums usually return to normal following the delivery of your baby. The bleeding and sensitivity should diminish. If swelling and irritation continues after delivery or gets worse during your pregnancy, contact your dentist.

Reprinted with permission from American Pregnancy Association.