What is that on my toothbrush?

Bleeding gums? Don’t panic. Plenty of women find that their gums bleed easily during pregnancy. It’s one of the many surprises that you probably didn’t know about when you signed up to bring new life into the world.

Your dentist may give you a diagnosis of pregnancy gingivitis when you complain about your bleeding gums. Gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease, comes from the Latin word for gums ⁠— gingiva. Its potential causes during pregnancy include:

  • Hormones. You can blame your swollen and sensitive gums on the pregnancy hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that are streaming through your blood and increasing blood flow to all of your mucous membranes.
  • Decreased saliva production. Pregnancy means more hormones, and for some people, this may mean having less saliva. Less saliva means that the carbs you eat hang around on the surfaces of your teeth for longer, potentially leading to a buildup of plaque. Plaque is the soft, sticky stuff that builds up on your teeth — and it’s chock-full of bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Changes in saliva. Not only do you have less saliva, but your saliva is more acidic than that of non-pregnant women. That means it’s not the efficient buffer it used to be. These acids can also raise your risk of tooth erosion and decay.
  • Toothpaste aversion. Food preferences aren’t the only things changes you’ll notice. If you’re avoiding your twice-daily brushing habit because you can’t stand the smell of your toothpaste, try changing your trusted brand or using a milder flavor.
  • Morning sickness. Hopefully, this is passé, but if you’re still dealing with this, make sure you rinse your mouth after you throw up so that you wash away the acid from your stomach. If you want to brush your teeth, wait about 1 hour, as the acid may have softened the enamel on your teeth. Use plain water or be extra vigilant and rinse with 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 1 cup of water.

Did you know?

Are you dealing with a stuffy nose on top of all your other pregnancy symptoms? Blame it on the same hormones that are making your gums swell. These hormones target all mucous membranes.

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Wondering when to look out for bleeding gums? You’ll probably notice them sometime during your second trimester, with the sensitivity and bleeding peaking during the third trimester. If you had gum disease before you became pregnant, you’ll probably notice that it’s now aggravated.

But could they also be an early pregnancy sign?

Bleeding gums can be an early sign of pregnancy, occurring as early as the first trimester. In addition to taking a pregnancy test, you may want to brush up on your oral hygiene habits.

As well as bleeding, you may notice other gum symptoms:

  • Swollen, sore gums. Along with bleeding gums, you may notice that your gums are swollen, sore, and red. You’re totally right: It’s a pain — but it’s also totally normal.
  • Pregnancy tumors. It may sound dangerous, but these are generally harmless, and 0.5–5 percent of pregnant women find them. Also called pyogenic granulomas, these red, raw-looking swellings happen most often between teeth. They’re probably related to the excess plaque we already talked about. The good news is that they’ll probably disappear when your baby makes their grand entry into the world.

Here are the most effective ways to take care of your bleeding gums:

  • Good oral hygiene. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush gently (twice a day) so that you don’t irritate your sensitive gums.
  • Floss. It’s tempting when you’re tired out from just being pregnant, but don’t skip flossing. Doing so removes the food that gets stuck between your teeth.
  • Mouthwash. If you’re not great at brushing and flossing, or you’re looking to take especially good care of your teeth, you may want to rinse your mouth with an alcohol-free mouthwash.
  • Limit the sugar. Excess sugar and good teeth don’t go together. Despite the cravings, you may want to limit your sugar intake and crunch on fruits and vegetables which are, by the way, great for your gums too.
  • Take your prenatal vitamin. Vitamin C is great for gum health. Calcium will keep your teeth and bones strong. It’s typically found in prenatal vitamins, as well as in foods that are good for pregnancy — like dairy and fruit.
  • Visit your dentist. You may be tempted to skip your regular visit to the dentist, but try to fit it in even if you’re anxious about having someone work around your sensitive gums. A dental checkup is the best way to keep on top of what’s happening in your mouth. If it’s not noticeable, remember to tell your dentist that you’re pregnant so that you can avoid X-rays and any work that will require anesthesia. Usually, the best time to visit a dentist is at the beginning of the second trimester.

Home remedies to treat your bleeding gums

  • Keep gum inflammation at bay by using a daily salt rinse (1 teaspoon of salt added to 1 cup of warm water). Hey, if you’re up for it — go for a swim in the sea. Remember your stuffy nose? Seawater is a natural saline wash that will soothe your gums and relieve that stuffiness.
  • Brushing with a paste of baking soda and water may help remove more plaque. Less plaque means less inflammation. Baking soda can also help neutralize any harmful acids on your teeth if you experience morning sickness.

Bleeding gums during pregnancy are typically fairly mild. But it’s important to see your dentist so you can prevent potential complications, such as periodontal disease. This is an infection of the gums and surrounding bone. And, yes, it can lead to loosening teeth and bone loss.

The majority of studies have shown that periodontal disease may increase the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and preeclampsia. However, some studies do not show an association. Either way, you won’t lose out by taking good care of your teeth.

Myth or fact?

You may have heard the saying “Gain a child, lose a tooth.” With your gums bleeding, it’s tempting to believe it’s true. But rest easy.

While dental cavities and gum disease can become more common when you’re pregnant, following the suggestions above should enable you to hold on to every one of your teeth.

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Like so many of those pregnancy symptoms, bleeding gums do come to an end. You just have to wait until you deliver your baby and are holding that precious bundle.

Bleeding gums aren’t pleasant, but with the knowledge you’ve gained (and a soft-bristled toothbrush), you’ll easily make it to the finish line.