Ask The Dentist: How to look after your teeth during pregnancy

Lucy Stock explains why bleeding gums need brushed twice as much and how mums-to-be can help keep their teeth in tip-top condition during pregnancy

Pregnancy hormones make gums bleed more and worsen gum disease
Lucy Stock

PREGNANT women with gum disease are significantly more likely to go into early labour, according to the findings of a new study.

Research discovered that women who entered labour early were one and a half times more likely (45 per cent) to have gum disease than women who experienced a perfect pregnancy (29 per cent).

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, also found that early birth rates were more common for women with untreated tooth decay or fillings.

Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, says the research highlights the impact that oral health can have on overall wellbeing.

Dr Carter said: "The health of our mouth can have a direct influence on many parts of our general health. This includes the chances of having a safer birth.

"Many women find it more difficult it to maintain good oral health during pregnancy. This is because hormonal changes during this time can leave gums more vulnerable to plaque and more likely to be sore and swollen. They may even bleed."

As part of the study, researchers examined the pregnancies and oral health of almost 150 women. They found that women who went into early labour recorded gum health scores four times lower than those who had a timelier birth. They also had eight times more plaque.

Even though pregnancy hormones make gums bleed more and worsen gum disease, it doesn't mean that you should just give up. When you are pregnant you just need to bring a bit of extra cleaning power to the table to control gum disease and stop inflammatory products leaking into your blood stream and circulating around your body.

Many people are put off if their gums bleed when they brush and so start to brush too gingerly as they are scared of causing damage. However, in contrast to how we are conditioned to react when we see blood, this actually just makes gum disease worse.

If your gums bleed it's a signal that they need brushed twice as much. If you are pregnant and want to keep your gums in maximum health for your baby, try cleaning in between the teeth with wood sticks, teepees or a water jet. Brushing alone simply does not kick gum disease in to touch.

Upping your home tooth cleaning habits needs to be twinned with a visit to your dentist so that the hygienist can remove any hard tartar deposits from your teeth to allow your gums to heal.

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