When it comes to sensitive gums during pregnancy, Nancy O’Dell, the former co-anchor of Access Hollywood and new co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight, can speak from her own experience. In an interview with Dear Doctormagazine, she described the gum sensitivity she developed when pregnant with her daughter, Ashby. She said her dentist diagnosed her with pregnancy gingivitis, a condition that occurs during pregnancy and is the result of hormonal changes that increases blood flow to the gums. And based on her own experiences, Nancy shares this advice with mothers-to-be: use a softer bristled toothbrush, a gentle flossing and brushing technique and mild salt water rinses.
Before we continue we must share one important fact: our goal here is not to scare mothers-to-be, but rather to educate them on some of the common, real-world conditions that can occur during pregnancy. This is why we urge all mothers-to-be to contact us to schedule an appointment for a thorough examination as soon as they know they are pregnant to determine if any special dental care is necessary.
Periodontal (gum) disease can impact anyone; however, during pregnancy the tiny blood vessels of the gum tissues can become dilated (widened) in response to the elevated hormone levels of which progesterone is one example. This, in turn, causes the gum tissues to become more susceptible to the effects of plaque bacteria and their toxins. The warning signs of periodontal disease and pregnancy gingivitis include: swelling, redness, bleeding and sensitivity of the gum tissues. It is quite common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy.
Early gum disease, if left untreated, can progress to destructive periodontitis, which causes inflammation and infection of the supporting structures of the teeth. This can result in the eventual loss of teeth — again, if left untreated. Furthermore, there have been a variety of studies that show a positive link between preterm delivery and the presence of gum disease. There has also been a link between an increased rate of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) and periodontal disease. Researchers feel this suggests that periodontal disease may cause stress to the blood vessels of the mother, placenta and fetus.