Consistent daily dental flossing should be part of your regular oral care routine in the best of circumstances, but the benefits of flossing are especially important if you are thinking of becoming pregnant or if you are pregnant. Pregnancy is one of several health conditions that make your teeth and gums more vulnerable to plaque buildup and infection.
You’re only pregnant for about 9 months, but it’s important to pay special attention to your oral health before, during and after pregnancy.
Research shows that hormonal changes during pregnancy make the mom-to-be more susceptible to gingivitis. But early signs of gum disease during pregnancy appear to be reversible. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology in July 2008 compared the gum health of 30 pregnant women and 24 non-pregnant women of similar ages. During the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, the pregnant women were more likely to show signs of receding gums and gums that bled easily compared with the non-pregnant women. But during the third trimester and at two postpartum dental examinations, these trends had reversed. These findings suggest that changes in clinical parameters during pregnancy are reversible, and pregnancy-induced gingivitis does not automatically predispose or proceed to periodontitis. But it is still important for pregnant women to be diligent about their oral care to help keep early symptoms of gingivitis under control.
Prevention of periodontitis is important to the health of the mother-to-be not only during pregnancy, but during delivery, too. Data from a second study published in the Journal of Periodontology in 2008 showed that women who had periodontitis during their pregnancies were significantly more likely to develop preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening complication during delivery. This study supported results from several previous studies published in dental and obstetrics and gynecology journals that show a significant association between active gum disease during pregnancy and an increased risk of preeclampsia (a delivery complication associated with high blood pressure).
Diabetes and Pregnancy
Are you diabetic and planning a pregnancy? People with diabetes (either type 1 or type 2) are at greater risk to develop gum disease than someone who doesn’t have diabetes. The risk is greater because the higher blood sugar in people with diabetes provides a favorable environment for bacteria that can create plaque and lead to gingivitis. And someone with diabetes may be less able to resist an infection (including an oral infection) than someone who doesn’t have diabetes.
If you are pregnant and you have diabetes, you may be at higher risk for complications if you neglect your oral health. Results from a study comparing pregnant women with type 1 diabetes and non-diabetic pregnant women showed that the pregnant women with diabetes had significantly higher levels of plaque and gingival inflammation compared with the non-diabetic pregnant women.
Preparing a Routine
The best way to prevent gum disease during pregnancy is to develop a consistent oral health care routine before becoming pregnant, so you can establish your good oral health habits early. If you follow a routine of twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing before trying to get pregnant, you may be less likely to develop gum disease during pregnancy. The American Dental Association also recommends twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing as a minimum for women who are pregnant.
During pregnancy, your body’s hormone levels rise considerably. Gingivitis, especially common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy, may cause red, puffy or tender gums that tend to bleed when you brush. This sensitivity is an exaggerated response to plaque and is caused by an increased level of progesterone in your system. Be sure to schedule regular dental visits for a thorough cleaning and to identify any problems before they become severe. Your dentist may even recommend more frequent cleanings during your second trimester or early third trimester to help you avoid problems.
Flossing—whether you use dental floss, a disposable flosser or a deluxe electric flosser—should be part of your oral care routine, so find a product you like and use it daily. And if you have diabetes, you have even more reason to pay attention to your teeth and gums before becoming pregnant.
One reason to bolster your oral care routine during pregnancy: Cravings. The food cravings that come with pregnancy may mean that pregnant women who are already susceptible to plaque buildup are eating and drinking more frequently, increasing their risk of developing cavities.
If you find that your gums are more sensitive during pregnancy, especially if you’re brushing and flossing more frequently, try using soft floss, such as Oral B® SATINfloss® to avoid irritating sensitive gums.