bleeding-gums-during-pregnancy

“My Mouth (and my life) is Falling Apart” A Hygienist’s Cautionary Tale of Gingivitis Woe

Are bleeding gums during pregnancy normal?

So, for those of you who don’t already know, I’m having a baby!  We are completely thrilled! 

The person who wasn’t completely thrilled with me when she saw the state of my mouth was my hygienist, Heather, who cleaned my teeth about a week after my positive pregnancy test.

Just kidding!  Heather is the literally THE SWEETEST person you will everrr meet in your life, but she did remark “Wow! Your gums definitely know you are pregnant. You’re bleeding everywhere.”

Clinically, I see how dramatically the mouths of my pregnant patients change during pregnancy. Pregnancy increases both the risk for gum disease and cavities. What amazed me was even that early on, only a week into my pregnancy, Heather was able to see the difference. I couldn’t feel the difference, but Heather could definitely see it.

Frequently, when I discuss with patients that they have bleeding during their cleaning, they respond with the fact that they never have any bleeding when they are brushing and flossing at home. I believe they’re telling me the truth! However, at NO point in time, even during a dental cleaning, should a patient’s mouth bleed. 

It would be like if you went to go wash your hands in the sink as you always do, and your palms started to bleed. You would freak out! You would call your doctor immediately and demand to be seen!

Bottom line is, you would be concerned because you KNOW that is NOT normal.

The same goes for your mouth! If the tissue in the mouth is not infected or inflamed, it CANNOT bleed. It’s literally impossible. For whatever reason, people think because the bleeding is in the mouth, it is more acceptable.

The truth is, bleeding in the mouth should cause the same amount of alarm that bleeding palms would illicit.

So, being the responsible and informed hygienist that I am, what do I do with this news from Heather that my gums are bleeding?

Absolutely. Nothing.

Guys…I may be a hygienist, but I’m not perfect. I’m human. I continued with my normal brushing and flossing routine.   It had worked for me for 33 years, why wouldn’t it continue to work for me? I would see her in three months’ time for my normal three-month cleaning and all would be well, right?

Fast forward to two months post dental cleaning. I’m at home, brushing my teeth, and I spit out into the sink to see RED bubbles.  My immediate reaction to seeing this is “What did I eat that was red for dinner?”

Can you say DENIAL? I couldn’t possibly have gums that bleed to brushing! I’m a hygienist!

When I realized I hadn’t eaten anything remotely red for dinner, it was time to face the music.  I walked out of the bathroom, hung my head, and blubbered to my husband “I have pregnancy gingivitis” which he thought was absolutely hysterical.

Oh, how the mighty had fallen.

I came into work the next day begging Heather to “fix me.” She squeezed me in for a cleaning and despite the fact that it had only been two months since my last cleaning, my gum disease had gotten WORSE *the horror* [insert emoji of face grabbing cheeks]

How could this happen? I was still doing the same things I had always done!

Progesterone, the pregnancy hormone, surges naturally as the baby grows. These hormonal changes hinder the body’s normal response to the toxins (poisons) from plaque causing gum disease.

Not only was my body making progesterone, but my OBGYN was also having me take a pill of progesterone to support the pregnancy, as I had recently had two prior miscarriages. This increased progesterone led to my bleeding gums during pregnancy.

So, now I have…

Natural Progesterone +  Pill Progesterone + Weakened Pregnancy Immune System =

*drumroll*

PERFECT STORM FOR SOME DENTAL DISEASE

Now, none of this was my fault. (See how I shirked the blame there?)

But seriously, I can’t control a hormone surge or a doctor prescribing me a medication or my weakened immune system.

However, just because it wasn’t my fault, doesn’t mean it’s not my problem. My mouth doesn’t care why it’s falling apart. All it knows is it’s falling apart. Something had to be done.

There are two types of gum disease:  gingivitis and periodontists.  The type of gum disease I had was gingivitis.

(Your hygienist takes measurements at the beginning of each cleaning to determine if there is gum disease present or not, and if so, what type. If you are unclear where you stand, just ask!)

THE BAD (AND THE UGLY) ABOUT PREGNANCY GINGIVITIS

 If you keep practicing the same home dental-care routine the way you have always done it and keep coming in for your cleanings at the same frequency you’ve always come in at, IT WILL GET WORSE. Not it might get worse. It WILL get worse.

Your gingivitis WILL, not might, but WILL, become periodontists. Periodontists is the irreversible form of gum disease where you lose the bone that holds the tooth upright and steady in its socket.  In its most severe stage, your perfect tooth, without a cavity anywhere on it, can fall out of your head because there is nothing holding it in anymore.

Eek!

No thank you!

THE GOOD ABOUT GINGIVITIS

The damage that has been done is reversible. BUT (listen closely, because this is the important part) …THERE HAS TO BE AN INTERVENTION TO REVERSE THE PREGNANCY GINGIVITIS. What do I mean when I say intervention? An intervention means BOTH the patient doing more at home AND the hygienist being involved for more frequent dental cleanings.

Heather had told me she saw bleeding.  Bleeding means gingivitis.  Knowing I had pregnancy gingivitis, I chose to do nothing different.  And it got worse.

It was time for an intervention. Actually, I was overdue for an intervention.

We shortened the time between my cleanings to every 3-4 WEEKS. Yes. That’s not a typo. Weeks. I brushed longer and more frequently. I flossed twice a day instead of once a day.  It took a total of two more cleanings, but we finally started to see some improvement in my bleeding gums.

So, my challenge to you is this, when your hygienist mentions you are bleeding when she is cleaning, work with her to develop a strategy for halting, stabilizing and if possible, reversing, the damage that has been done.

Don’t be like me and do nothing.  Be better than me!

Gum disease is something that has to be managed through each season of life.  It’s bad for your mouth, but it is worse for your overall systemic health (which is another novel for another day). 

Medications, hormones, the state of your immune system, and so many other variables play a part in whether you have gum disease in that moment or not. Remember like I said earlier, just because it’s not your fault, doesn’t mean it’s not your problem.

Contact Adams Dental for More Information about Bleeding Gums During Pregnancy

Help us help you keep your mouth and your body healthy! Schedule an appointment for teeth cleanings and learn more about our dental-care procedures by contacting Adams Dental today at 727-461-4832. Our dentist in Clearwater, Florida can help you treat bleeding gums during pregnancy and can also assist you with dental crowns, dental bridges, and more advanced dental procedures.

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