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What Every Pregnant Woman Should Know About Periodontal Disease

Every Pregnant Woman Should Know About Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, is a condition that can affect many individuals, but it is of particular concern for pregnant women. Characterised by inflammation and infection of the gums and supporting structures of the teeth, periodontal disease can have implications not only for oral health but also for pregnancy outcomes.

Understanding Periodontal Disease: Basics for Expectant Mothers

Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that typically begins with gingivitis, a mild form of gum inflammation. If left untreated, it can advance to periodontitis, where the deeper tissues and bone supporting the teeth become affected. Symptoms can include swollen, red, and bleeding gums, bad breath, and in severe cases, tooth loss.

It’s different from cavities (dental caries), which are caused by tooth decay. Periodontal disease focuses on the gums and the bone structure around the teeth, making it a more complex issue, especially during pregnancy.

The Link Between Pregnancy and Gum Health

Pregnancy brings about a myriad of hormonal changes, which can increase the risk of developing periodontal disease. Elevated levels of hormones such as progesterone and estrogen can make the gums more susceptible to the effects of plaque and bacteria, leading to inflammation. Consequently, pregnant women may experience ‘pregnancy gingivitis’, a condition where the gums become swollen, tender, and more prone to bleeding.

This increased susceptibility makes it crucial for expectant mothers to pay extra attention to their oral health during pregnancy. Australian guidelines, such as those provided by the Australian Dental Association, emphasise the importance of maintaining oral hygiene during this period.

Symptoms of Periodontal Disease During Pregnancy

The most common symptoms of periodontal disease during pregnancy include:

  • Swollen, Red Gums: Hormonal changes can make the gums more prone to swelling and redness.
  • Bleeding Gums: This can occur during brushing or flossing and is a sign of inflammation.
  • Bad Breath: Caused by bacteria present in inflamed gums.
  • Gum Recession: As the disease progresses, gums may recede, exposing more of the tooth.

It’s vital for pregnant women to be vigilant about these symptoms. Early detection and treatment can prevent the condition from worsening and protect both maternal and foetal health.

Potential Risks of Untreated Periodontal Disease in Pregnancy

Untreated periodontal disease during pregnancy carries significant risks. Research has suggested a link between severe periodontal disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth and low birth weight. The inflammation and infection in the gums can potentially affect the overall health of the pregnant woman, which in turn can impact the developing foetus.

Australian health authorities, including the Department of Health, have acknowledged the importance of oral health during pregnancy and its potential impact on overall health outcomes. They advise pregnant women to seek regular dental care and practice good oral hygiene.

Preventive Measures: Maintaining Oral Health During Pregnancy

Preventing periodontal disease during pregnancy is primarily about maintaining good oral hygiene and overall health. Expectant mothers should:

  • Brush Regularly: Brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss Daily: Flossing helps remove plaque between teeth and under the gumline.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet: A diet rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin C and calcium, supports gum health.
  • Avoid Tobacco: Smoking is a significant risk factor for periodontal disease.
  • Regular Dental Check-ups: Professional cleaning and check-ups are essential during pregnancy.

Australian dental guidelines, such as those from the Australian Dental Association, stress the importance of these preventative measures. They also recommend that pregnant women inform their dentist about their pregnancy, as this can affect the type of care and treatment provided.

Professional Dental Care During Pregnancy

Dental care during pregnancy is not only safe but highly recommended. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are crucial for preventing and managing periodontal disease. Expectant mothers should inform their dentist about their pregnancy, as this can influence the type of treatments and medications deemed appropriate.

Australian dental guidelines, including those from the Dental Board of Australia, advise dentists to tailor dental care to the unique needs of pregnant patients. Routine dental X-rays can be postponed until after the birth, but if necessary, they can be performed safely with appropriate shielding.

Treatment Options for Periodontal Disease in Pregnant Women

When treating periodontal disease in pregnant women, the focus is on controlling the infection and reducing gum inflammation without invasive procedures. Common treatments include:

  • Professional Cleaning: Dentists can perform scaling and root planning to remove plaque and tartar from below the gum line.
  • Improved Oral Hygiene Practices: Reinforcing the importance of meticulous oral hygiene to control plaque build-up.
  • Medications: If needed, certain antibiotics that are safe for use during pregnancy can be prescribed to control infection. Always consult with a healthcare provider before taking any medication during pregnancy.

These treatments are designed to be safe for both the mother and the developing foetus. The Australian Dental Association provides resources and guidelines to ensure that treatments provided to pregnant women are both effective and safe.

Postpartum Periodontal Care

The importance of oral health extends into the postpartum period. After childbirth, women should continue with regular dental check-ups and cleanings. If periodontal treatment was deferred during pregnancy, more definitive procedures can now be considered.

It’s also important for new mothers to maintain good oral hygiene and a healthy diet to support their overall health and well-being, which is vital for both themselves and their newborns.

Dental and Medical Resources in Australia

In Australia, there are ample resources for pregnant women seeking information and support for oral health. The Australian Government’s Department of Health website offers guidance on many aspects of prenatal and postnatal care, including oral health. Additionally, the Australian Dental Association provides a wealth of information on dental care before, during, and after pregnancy.

In conclusion, understanding and managing periodontal disease during pregnancy is of paramount importance. Pregnant women should be vigilant in their oral care routine and seek professional dental care to maintain good oral health, which in turn supports their overall health and that of their baby.

For those in the Sydney area, Balmain Dentist offers a comprehensive range of dental services tailored to the unique needs of pregnant women. Our experienced team ensures that all treatments provided are safe and effective, helping expectant and new mothers maintain optimal oral health.

Periodontal health is a crucial component of prenatal care, and with the right knowledge and support, expectant mothers can effectively manage their oral health. By taking proactive steps and seeking regular dental care, pregnant women can significantly reduce their risk of periodontal disease and its associated complications, ensuring a healthier pregnancy and a healthier start for their baby.


1. What is periodontal disease and why is it a concern during pregnancy?

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is an infection and inflammation of the gums and the surrounding tissue. It’s a concern during pregnancy because hormonal changes can increase the risk of developing this condition, and severe periodontal disease has been linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes like preterm birth and low birth weight.

2. Can periodontal disease during pregnancy affect the baby?

Yes, there is evidence to suggest that severe periodontal disease during pregnancy can impact the health of the baby. It has been associated with an increased risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. However, with proper management and treatment, these risks can be significantly reduced.

3. Is it safe to have dental treatments during pregnancy?

Yes, it is safe to have dental treatments during pregnancy. Routine dental care, including professional cleanings and necessary dental work, is important for maintaining oral health and can be safely performed during pregnancy. Dentists in Australia follow guidelines to ensure treatments are safe for pregnant women.

4. What are the symptoms of periodontal disease in pregnancy?

Symptoms include swollen, red, and bleeding gums, gum recession, bad breath, and in more severe cases, loose teeth. Pregnant women experiencing any of these symptoms should consult their dentist for a thorough evaluation and appropriate treatment.

5. How can I prevent periodontal disease during pregnancy?

Prevention focuses on maintaining good oral hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, and having routine dental check-ups. Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and avoiding tobacco are also important preventive measures. Pregnant women should also inform their dentist about their pregnancy, as this can influence their oral care plan.