Just add it to the ever-growing list of pregnancy side effects you never saw coming: bleeding gums during gestation is definitely a thing. The first time you discover blood on your toothbrush might be jarring, and your mouth will likely be sensitive and sore to boot. So why do your gums bleed when you're pregnant, and what should you do about it?
According to New York City dentist Edward Alvarez, DDS, the culprits are our old friends estrogen and progesterone. "When you are pregnant, your estrogen and progesterone levels rise throughout your tissues. The way your body fights gum infection is decreased due to the rise of these pregnancy hormones, and you are therefore more likely to bleed," Alvarez tells Romper. "Actual receptors of estrogen and progesterone are found in your gum tissue, thereby increasing your inflammatory response."
When everything is out of whack with your body during pregnancy, it's tempting to write off a little gum bleeding as the least of your worries. But the truth is, your dental hygiene is actually intricately connected to your overall health and the health of your baby. Bijan Modjtahedi, DDS, of Fountain Valley, California, emphasizes that patients need to be aware of the connection between local and systematic inflammation. Modjtahedi, in an interview with Romper, says that because of the notable association between oral health and things like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory infection, and even preterm birth, he has seen insurance companies increase teeth cleaning coverage from twice to three times a year if the patient is pregnant.
Modjtahedi points out that as a society, our commitment to oral hygiene is somewhat lacking. "We generate oral plaque on a daily basis," he explains, "and our job is to make sure we remove the plaque by exercising good oral care; brushing two to three times a day and flossing at least once a day. The problem is most people do not floss daily and with infrequent visits the plaque/calculus accumulates, and hence the bleeding gums."
Feeling guilted into grabbing that floss yet? If so, you're not alone. According to Modjtahedi, more than one-third of women report not having been to a dentist within the past year. If you're experiencing Pregnancy Gingivitis, it might just be the swift kick in the rear you need to get your oral hygiene in order. It's likely time to make an appointment with your dentist and OB-GYN as soon as possible to discuss a treatment plan. Bleeding gums during pregnancy are not uncommon, but it's best to be under the watchful care of a professional to be sure you and baby are both as healthy as possible.