Prior to being an expectant mum, I had little issues with my teeth (or gum for that matter). Seeing a dentist was an annual affair for routine checkups (which is longer than the recommended 6 months) because I have -- present tense -- an irrational fear of sitting in the dentist's chair (who doesn't?)
When I became pregnant and the third trimester started, aches and pains crept in -- among which, very annoying and persistent gum pain. I was bewildered when what I thought were just gums flaring up was diagnosed to be pregnancy gingivitis (oh my, how serious-sounding!)
What in the world is pregnancy gingivitis? Okay, google tells me it is a condition caused by hormonal changes brought about by pregnancy that result in increased blood flow to the gums and therefore gums swell, bleed or become irritated. Oh joy. Google also tells me this mild form of gum disease can advance into Periodontitis if left unchecked, which increases the risk of preterm birth and adverse fetal outcomes like low birth weight. What??? Double joy.
I started a heap of research about the symptoms and treatments available for pregnancy gingivitis. What causes pregnancy gingivitis? What would provide relief for this condition? Are there any quick fixes or cures? Would a mouthwash help? Are there any home remedies if I don't want to visit a dentist due to an irrational fear of dental treatments being harmful to my unborn child, or if the dentist doesn't want to work on my treatment until I have delivered my baby?
I am glad to share that I have managed to keep pregnancy gingivitis in check during this home stretch of my pregnancy using some tested and proven to work home remedies.
Hopefully my personal experience and tips would be of help (or at the very least, hope) to any other suffering mums-to-be of pregnancy gingivitis out there!
What causes pregnancy gingivitis?
The culprit is a bacterial film that grows on teeth, forming a buildup of plaque. When gums become more sensitive to the bacteria in plaque, tenderness, bleeding, irritation, swelling/inflammation is experienced.
When pregnant, the body creates more progesterone (which is vital for keeping uterine lining healthy during pregnancy amongst many other functions) which changes how the immune system responds. The body might overreact to bacterial plaque and pregnancy gingivitis is the outcome.
Many pregnant women apparently suffer from this problem early on in their pregnancy, commonly the second trimester, so I should still count my blessings that my misery started this late. A sad form of self-consolation as I wince in pain whenever I put food in my mouth and have to chew but oh well.
Quick fixes or cures for pregnancy gingivitis relief
Professional removal of plaque and bacteria by your dentist or dental hygienist, which controls gum inflammation. Antibiotics and painkillers prescribed by the dentist may also help. Make sure you inform your dentist that you are pregnant.
But if you're concerned about dental intervention and antibiotics during pregnancy, refer to point below.
How I naturally treated my pregnancy gingivitis
Brush my teeth at least twice a day: I went to the extent of brushing after every meal. I made sure it wasn't slip-shod brushing, but careful contact with as many tooth surfaces as possible for two minutes per brushing session. Be meticulous but not overzealous - mind you, aggressive brushing may backfire and irritate the gums more.
Floss very diligently: Did this after each brushing ritual to remove the nasty food particles stuck between my teeth.
Salt water rinse: I added half a teaspoon of salt to a glass of lukewarm water and used it to thoroughly rinse (not swallow!) my mouth twice a day.
Salt is known to promote fast healing naturally and it can inhibit bacterial growth in the mouth.
Chew sugarless gum and drink plenty of water: These stimulate saliva production, which apparently contains minerals that naturally help kill bacteria.
Avoid sharing food and utensils with other people: Which included the dear husband. I wouldn't want to introduce more plaque-causing bacteria in my mouth, would I?
Use of cold compress: I soaked a clean towel in water, wringed out the excess and placed it in a clean area of my refrigerator. When it turns cold, I hold it against my face for a couple of minutes to numb the painful area. The cold helps with the gum inflammation and swelling. I do so whenever I start to become acutely aware of the pain.
I repeated the above steps for 3 days and felt a noticeable reduction in gum pain or swelling. Within 1-2 weeks, it subsided to nothingness (yay!)
Preventive tips to keep pregnancy gingivitis at bay
Often, it seems like you have scraped away plaque through the efforts of your dentist or your own diligence only for it to revisit you before you know it.
It is important to address the root cause of gum problems by preventing plaque buildup in the first place. I believe that the right diet enable our teeth to be better at remineralization so they can fight off decay and stay healthy.
These are the foods I consume to promote remineralization of my teeth (think vitamins, calcium and folic acid!):
- Dark leafy green vegetables like spinach
- Wild-caught fish
On the other hand, it makes perfect sense to minimize or avoid foods that cause the opposite effect of teeth demineralization - namely highly processed products and sugary produce.
Pregnancy gingivitis hurts and every moment the pain was active, my mind was occupied with wishing it away (if only it is that easy!) I can't empathize more with every mum-to-be going through this terrible (and needless) pain.
Work on your treatment options (be it dental intervention or home remedies) as soon as possible to relieve the pain! To other mums-to-be, prevention is better than cure, so practise strong oral hygiene habits and be the lucky percentage of pregnant women who will never have to experience gingivitis!
This is a personal blog which is based on my own experience and anecdote. It is not intended to replace or advise medical or dental advice. If you have any concerns about your dental health please contact your dentist or dental hygienist.
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.