Women go through a variety of bodily changes throughout their reproductive years. The reproductive years begin as a girl hits puberty. Physical as well as mental symptoms are caused by the interplay of estrogen and progesterone during every menstrual cycle. In fact, these hormonal interactions help a woman conceive and bring about the changes that are essential to support a pregnancy. Most women feel overwhelmed with joy, as they feel a new life growing within them. However, the changes that appear due to hormonal changes throughout these nine months can also be quite unnerving. Morning sickness, fluid retention, backache and various other problems can cause discomfort.
Pregnancy can also affect oral health. Swollen gums is one such oral problem that women often experience during the course of pregnancy. So, what causes swollen gums during pregnancy? Here's some information on why pregnant women are highly susceptible to swollen gums, gum sensitivity or gingivitis, especially during pregnancy.
Causes of Swollen Gums in Pregnant Women
As mentioned earlier, the levels of estrogen and progesterone increase considerably during the course of pregnancy. A woman has to modify her diet and make various changes to her lifestyle so as to promote proper development of the fetus. The fetus gets all the nourishment from the mother's blood that is passed through the placenta. This is the reason why the heart pumps more blood and kidneys retain more blood. The adrenal glands are stimulated to produce higher amounts of aldosterone and cortisol so as to help the kidneys retain more fluid.
Since the amount of fluid retained in the body is high, the fluid settles in the cells and tissues of the body. Since the gum tissue that surrounds the base of the teeth may also retain more fluid, it also appears to be swollen. Right from the conception till the time the baby is delivered, the kidneys are working to ensure that the blood volume doesn't dip down. So, increased blood volume and fluid retention is most likely to cause swollen gums during pregnancy. Increased blood flow may also lend a bright red color to the gums.
Gums are medically referred to as gingivae and the inflammation of gums is referred to as gingivitis. Gingivitis is primarily caused due to formation of plaque. Plaque is a film of bacteria that forms when bacteria act on the food debris stuck between the teeth. Pregnancy gingivitis is mainly attributed to the increased flow of blood to the gum tissue. The increased blood flow makes the mucosa or the mucus membranes that covers the gums, more sensitive. Though plaque can be removed if one pays attention to dental hygiene, in case of pregnant women who don't do so, plaque may accumulate and start irritating the gum tissue.
This is the reason why, slight trauma to the gum while brushing can cause the gums to bleed. Since the immune system may be burdened during the course of pregnancy, the ability to counter bacterial attack may also get affected. Pre-existing gum problems may get aggravated during pregnancy. So, if gums appear to be red, swollen and bleed on brushing, the wise thing to do would be to consult a dentist. If left untreated, gingivitis could progress to a severe dental condition called periodontal disease.
Treatment of Swollen Gums
Though hormonal changes during pregnancy make women susceptible to swollen gums, gingivitis occurs only when bacteria start acting on the food debris. Thus, serious dental conditions such as gingivitis or periodontal disease can be prevented with proper oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing teeth regularly can help in preventing plaque from accumulating on the teeth. One can also use an electric scaler so as to remove food debris and prevent plaque. Women who spot plaque or tartar on their teeth must use an interdental toothbrush that can get rid of food debris properly. If your gums have become very sensitive, you should use a very soft bristled toothbrush along with toothpastes or gels that are meant for sensitive gums. Modifying your diet would also make a great difference.
Foods or beverages that have a high content of carbohydrates promote bacterial growth, thus, it would be better to refrain from consuming such food items. If you do, make sure that you brush your teeth or gargle with saline water or an antibacterial mouthwash after having starchy or sugary foods. Last but not the least, go for dentist checkups so that any oral problem can be identified soon. This is especially important as women suffering from gum disease during pregnancy, are at an increased risk of preterm birth. It is believed that if the bacteria that cause gingivitis enter the bloodstream and travel to the uterus, it may trigger the release of a fatty acid called prostaglandins. Prostaglandin can affect smooth muscle activity. If secreted in large amounts, it may induce labor. So, take all possible precautions to tackle the problem of swollen gums, and ensure that gums don't get affected by gingivitis or periodontal disease during pregnancy.
On a concluding note, dental health is extremely important and must be attended to at all times. Since gum conditions such as gingivitis can even lead to preterm birth, pregnant women must never take gum problems casually. Follow a proper dental care regimen in order to prevent this oral problem and consult a dentist at the earliest, if you suffer from gum problems while you are pregnant. A timely treatment will surely put an end to this oral problem.