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Is it normal to have bleeding gums during pregnancy?
About half of pregnant women have swollen, red, tender gums that bleed when flossed or brushed. This gum inflammation is pregnancy gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease. Pregnancy gingivitis is partly caused by hormonal changes that make your gums more sensitive to the bacteria in plaque.
You may also develop a small lump or nodule on your gums that bleeds when you brush. This relatively rare lump is called a pregnancy tumor or pyogenic granuloma – scary names for something that's harmless and usually painless. Pregnancy tumors can actually pop up anywhere on your body during pregnancy, but they show up most often in the mouth.
A pregnancy tumor on the gums can grow to up to three-quarters of an inch and is more likely to appear in an area where you have gingivitis. It typically disappears after you have your baby, but you'll need to have it removed if it doesn't. You can also have it removed while you're pregnant if it's uncomfortable, interferes with chewing or brushing, or starts to bleed too much.
Can pregnancy gingivitis affect my developing baby?
Pregnancy gingivitis is unlikely to be harmful to you or your baby, especially if you practice good dental hygiene. You may have heard that gum disease can cause preterm labor, but that's only a potential risk for women with severe gum disease.
And although some studies suggest a link between severe gum disease and preterm birth, low birth weight, and even preeclampsia, other studies show no relationship between gum disease and these serious complications.
How should I take care of my teeth and gums during pregnancy?
Start with good oral hygiene:
- Brush thoroughly but gently at least twice a day (after every meal if possible), using a soft-bristled brush and toothpaste with fluoride.
- Floss daily.
- Consider using a fluoridated, alcohol-free mouth rinse.
Also, see your dentist regularly for preventive care. Your dentist or periodontist can remove plaque and tartar that brushing can't. If you haven't seen your dentist recently, schedule an appointment now for a thorough cleaning and checkup. Let your dentist know that you're pregnant and how far along you are.
If it's early enough in your pregnancy, you'll probably want to be seen once more before your baby is born – or even more often if you already have gum disease because it's likely that pregnancy will make the problem worse.
Don't put off getting treatment for dental problems. If necessary, local anesthetics such as lidocaine are safe to use throughout pregnancy. Similarly, if you need to take antibiotics, drugs are available that are safe to take during pregnancy.
When should I call my dentist about bleeding gums during pregnancy?
In addition to your regular checkups, call your dentist right away if you have:
- A toothache
- Painful gums that bleed frequently
- Other signs of gum disease, like swollen or tender gums, receding gums, persistent bad breath, or loosening teeth
- Growths in your mouth, even if they're not painful or causing any other symptoms