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Tips for Good Oral Health: Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when women have special health needs. Your teeth and gums may
be affected by your pregnancy, just as other tissues in your body are. If your gums
are in good health before you get pregnant and you clean your teeth well, you are less
likely to have problems.

Gum Disease

Oral tissues may show an exaggerated response to bacterial plaque during pregnancy due to
increased levels of oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones may affect your immune
response to bacteria and favour bacterial growth. Therefore you may experience more gum
problems at this time. Inflammation of the gum or gingivitis may be more noticeable between
the second and eighth months of pregnancy and tends to subside after delivery. This is called
pregnancy gingivitis. Symsptoms may include redness, bleeding and swelling of your gums.
If you have healthy gum tissue before pregnanacy, pregnancy gingivitis may be prevented
with good oral hygiene. In pregnant women with poor oral hygiene, pregnancy gingivitis may
progress into periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease.
It is importan to minimise the effects of pregnancy gingivitis with professional cleaning and
a good home care routine. Regular dental check-ups and professional cleaning visits during
pregnancy will help prevent gum problems.

Pregnancy Granuloma

Occasionally, a gum growth may occur during pregnancy called a pregnancy granuloma. Pregnancy granulomas are more common after the third month of pregnancy and are noncancerous. A pregnancy granuloma is caused by the inflammatory response of your gums to local irritants such as bacterial plaque or calculus/tartar. The growth usually presents as a red nodule on the gums between the teeth, which may bleed easily and occasionally become ulcerated. The lump is usually painless, however, it
may become painful if it interferes with your bite or it accumulates debris. If a pregnancy granuloma forms, professional removal of plaque and calculus is required, supported by good oral hygiene. Pregnancy granulomas normally regress after delivery, however if they require removal, this can be performed by a dentist or a specialist periodontist. This procedure is usually carried out after delivery as it may recur, if removed during pregnancy. If you experience gum problems during your pregnancy, it is important to visit your dentist. Any treatment you might need can be provided before or after delivery as required.

Dental Erosion

Morning sickness may lead to vomiting during some stages of pregnancy. Frequent vomiting
during pregnancy can have an erosive effect on your teeth surface. The tooth enamel may
dissolve or become softened by gastric acids. It is important to not brush teeth immediately
after vomiting. It is good to wait for about 30 minutes before brushing teeth. Instead rinse
immediately with water. Pregnant women should avoid drinking soft drinks or juices to help ease nausea as acidic drinks are highly erosive. The o-called 'diet' drinks are also acidic, and if taken frequently can lead to erosion.

Dental Visits

A dental examination before you plan to become pregnant will allow identification and
treatment of teeth and gum problems beforehand. Otherwise a check-up during pregnancy is
advisable to help you maintain good oral health, particularly if you have any symptoms of gum
disease. If treatment is required during pregnancy, this may be best performed during the second
trimester. Emergency treatment can be undertaken at any time with proper safety measures. 

Article sourced from New Zealand Dental Association