While pregnant with her first child, Lombard mom Patricia Mendoza often had bleeding gums when brushing her teeth. It turned out to be gingivitis.
An estimated 50-70 percent of moms-to-be experience gingivitis during pregnancy. Increased hormone levels throughout pregnancy can cause a woman’s gums to react differently to the bacteria found in plaque.
Some especially unlucky women also develop a large, red lump on their gums known as a "pregnancy tumor." Despite their scary-sounding name, pregnancy tumors are harmless.
Fortunately, pregnancy-induced gingivitis does not turn into a long-term problem for most. Dr. Marty Kolinski, a periodontist (dentist specializing in gum disease) in St. Charles, explains that "if there was no gingivitis or periodontal disease before the patient was pregnant ... then it should clear up by itself" once the baby is born and hormone levels return to normal. Most pregnancy tumors also go away after delivery.
Kolinski says it is possible to "reduce the amount of inflammation ... just by increasing the amount of brushing, the vigorousness of it." He advises flossing more often and getting a professional cleaning every four months during pregnancy.
Studies have shown that mothers with periodontal disease are more likely to deliver a premature, low-birth-weight baby than women with healthy gums. Whether periodontal disease actually causes premature delivery is not clear.
With her second pregnancy, Mendoza went to the dentist for preventive treatment before conceiving and twice during pregnancy.
"The first time I wasn’t paying attention and the second time I was," she says. "I could tell that my gums and overall feeling in my mouth was good."