Dental Chair Confessions: I Have Pregnancy Gingivitis
Hi There! Check out my day-to-day updates on my campaign to beat my pregnancy gingivitis. The most recent entry will be at the top of this page.
Or, click HERE to start from the beginning!
Day 30: Today I had my follow up visit with 1st Family Dental to see if focusing on my home care routine really can have an impact on pregnancy gingivitis. I am happy and excited to report that my gums are looking great! I don’t get the official title of “cured” yet, but that’s because I’m still pregnant, and hormones can shift from day to day. However, once I have my baby, my dentist expects he’ll be able to give me back my “perfect teeth” record within a few weeks – that is, as long as I keep up my oral care routine at home. This experience has been a bit humbling for me, but I’m very happy that I was able to improve my own health with just a better focus on my own home-care routine. If I wasn’t sure before, now I see why it’s so important to see my dentist every 6 months for a checkup!
Day 24: Almost there! Since I’ve been flossing so much lately, I decided to make a video about flossing technique. It’s important to note that I’m not a dentist or a dental hygienist, but I am comfortable telling folks that flossing every day is most definitely better than NOT flossing. And that if you experience any symptoms of gum disease during your flossing routine, it’s important to get it checked out by a dentist. I’m a perfect example – I basically had almost no clue (well, maybe a small inkling) and my dentist caught my gingivitis before it could develop into something that required more care and treatment!
Day 20: My, how the time flies. I’ve gone through 30 feet of floss (apparently we use almost 550 feet a year!) and I’ve done very well with my routine. Some days are harder than others – especially if you are interrupted in the middle of your routine by a toddler! I’ve definitely had to put down my toothbrush or the floss and come back to it, but that has happened less since I’ve become very intentional about making sure my routine takes place when my son is asleep.
I also have a new obsession – these portable floss picks are great! I love to keep a few in my bag and in the car so I can floss whenever I think of it, and especially after lunch. I’m no Beyoncé, but it’s still pretty cool to be able to know you aren’t walking around with stuff stuck in your teeth.
Day 14: 21 feet of dental floss are history. I don’t want to get too optimistic here, but my mouth feels SO much cleaner, and I haven’t felt any sensitivity during my flossing routine in quite some time. I’m actually looking forward to my next checkup!
I’ve noticed that while pregnant, food seems to be quite a big deal to me! I’ve been focusing on my diet as much as I have been on my oral hygiene routine. I can’t help it though – I’ve been waiting for this to appear at my local grocery store and this week it was finally here! What is it? Watercress – only nature’s most nutrient-dense green. Eat your heart out Kale, now THIS is a superfood. Watercress is packed with Iron, Vitamin K and B vitamins, all of which promote healthy gums, as well as encourage the body to heal itself.
Important note: Watercress loses its nutrients if it is cooked or heated too much, so if you score some, be sure to rinse it well, let it air dry, and enjoy it raw. I made a salad with roasted beets (be sure to cool them before tossing them with the watercress), and topped it with some toasted pine nuts, a splash of EVOO, and a bit of balsamic vinegar reduction. Delicious and very healthy! I should note that beets have very strong pigment, and so does balsamic vinegar, so it’s a good idea to swish your mouth out well with water once your meal is done to help keep those pigments from staining your teeth. Cheers!
Day 10: 15 feet of dental floss used, and I’m feeling pretty great! I know it takes 21 days to officially make a good habit, but getting back into my old routine and focusing on it does feel a little bit like an old friend.
After 10 days, I’m ready to admit that sometimes my mouthwash does make me cry a little bit. When I spoke with Karina, a Dental Hygienist, as well as Dr. Sam Azzam, both assured me that the amount of “burn” one feels when using mouthwash is not associated with how well it works. Too bad, because otherwise some days I feel like my gingivitis should be cured with just 30 seconds of swishing!
What the dental professionals DID say was that it’s OK to use whatever mouthwash you like the taste and feel of best. In some cases I learned that a medicated mouthwash may be prescribed following a procedure to treat gum disease, but in my case, any OTC mouthwash or rinse is OK. I think the point is that I need to USE it every day! I’m going to try alternating with one that is alcohol-free to see which I like best.
Day 4: According to my calculations, so far I have used about 6 feet of dental floss. I am also re-thinking my mouthwash bravado because I think I’ve also cried about 2 gallons of tears from rinsing! Maybe I’ll give that alcohol-free type a try. I’ve also focused on adding a little bit of extra effort into my routine – swishing with water after a meal (and using a floss pick if I have one). All in all, I feel pretty good! I’m not feeling as much soreness in the trouble spots when I am flossing. The biggest struggle I am still having is disciplining myself not to skimp on the bedtime routine. Pregnancy can kind of knock the wind out of your sails, but I am making it happen, and trying to start my routine a little earlier. It’s also motivating to remember how much the health of my gums can affect the health of my baby. If my prenatal vitamins are a part of my daily routine to be healthy, why not my oral health routine?
Enough about teeth and gums today, let’s talk about food. Eating healthy has always been important to me but now I’m really focusing on foods that are healthy for teeth and gums as well. Gum and mouth-healthy vitamins and minerals include Folate, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin C, and Protein. Today I’ll share one of my favorite “recipes” which is not a recipe at all: “Refrigerator Salad.” As in: What’s in my fridge, and how can I make a salad out of it? Salads can be filling and tasty, not to mention pretty easy to put together. I try to make sure I always have one of these amazingly healthy green/crunchy/leafy items on hand. Then, I love to use the Cleveland Clinic’s infographic on how to build a salad based on what you’ve got in the fridge. The photo I’m sharing here shows today’s salad I made: Romain lettuce, cucumbers, strawberries, yellow cherry tomatoes, walnuts and leftover roasted chicken. My favorite dressing is a combination of lemon juice, red wine vinegar, a touch of honey, a little brown mustard and whatever herb I’m feeling like that day. Today I felt like a little thyme. That’s it! Delicious, healthy, nice to look at, and easy to make. Now it’s time to find that floss!
DAY 1: I have my “weapons” of choice. (Disclaimer: these are my own personal choices and don’t constitute any brand endorsements, etc!) So what’s in my bag of tricks? Well, nothing special, actually.
My toothbrush of choice is a Sonicare. I have always preferred an electric brush. It feels like it does a better job of cleaning, and it has a convenient built-in two-minute timer so I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to.
Next is toothpaste. I asked my dentist for any particular recommendation. I’m paraphrasing here, but basically he recommended something not too abrasive, but otherwise something I like, and that I’ll use every day. He said it’s the routine that’s most important. I also got a fluoride-free paste and I’ll get into that in another post!
Now on to dental floss. Again, the standard, waxed kind works well for me. I don’t have restorations like crowns that are super-hard to get between, but my bottom teeth are a bit close (leave your permanent retainers in, folks!) so I like the waxed kind. I also got some floss picks to throw in my purse or leave in my car so I can floss like a boss while I’m out.
Finally, mouthwash. Again, a regular over-the-counter type was OK with my dentist. There are two types of mouthwash users out there. The type that need to feel the burn, and those who are wrong. I kid, I kid. But I’m one of the few who actually likes the old-school brown mouthwash. But let me use this every day for a while and I’ll get back to you on that.
HERE I GO! Who’s with me? Re-charge your home-care routine with me and let me know how how it’s going in the comments!
I’m taking over 1st Family Dental’s Instagram account, so follow @1stFD for some photos and funny comments you won’t always see here!
Surprise! You Have Pregnancy Related Gingivitis: My Diagnosis
I should admit up front that I was less than excited to write this blog series. I am the very proud owner of a bit of unique trivia: I’ve never had a dental cavity in my entire life. I suppose I owe that to some good parenting, dental sealants, and orthodontic treatment during my youth that straightened out my smile. As an adult, I have maintained what I like to think is a great home-care routine of brushing and flossing, and I visit the dentist every 6 months for my regular checkup. I love hearing the dentist or hygienist say: “looks great, see you in 6 months!”
Symptoms of Gingivitis During Pregnancy
Imagine my surprise during my last dental checkup visit, when my dentist started asking me some questions he’s never asked me before:
- “Are you feeling any sensitivity or pain in this area?”
- “Have you noticed any bleeding when you brush or floss lately?”
- “Have you been keeping up your usual routine at home?”
Excuuuuuuuse me? Deviate from my brushing and flossing routine? Me? Please. But once I’d thought about it a little more, having a toddler at home has definitely made it more of a challenge to use the bathroom by myself, much less to take the time to brush and floss properly. And now that he’d mentioned it, I did notice I was bleeding some when flossing, and that sometimes it was even a little painful.
So then came my dentist’s next question: “When is your baby due?” Right. That. At my appointment in early March, I was about 29 weeks pregnant, due at the end of May. What did that have to do with anything? A lot, as it turns out.
Gum Disease Can Affect Pregnancy & Fertility
According to a 2004 study, up to 40% of women who are pregnant will develop some sort of gum (periodontal) disease. This is apparently due to hormonal changes, a more acidic environment inside the mouth, and often a reduction or change in the at-home oral hygiene routine.
Gum disease is caused when bacteria collect and hide below the gum line. Daily brushing and flossing usually removes this bacteria, but for women who are pregnant, sometimes, well, it just happens anyway. This bacteria can cause inflammation and irritation, which is the body’s way of fighting infection. Left untreated, advanced gum disease (periodontitis) can cause some serious problems.
Here are a few other things I learned about pregnancy gingivitis:
- Pregnancy-related gum disease often peaks towards the 3rd trimester of pregnancy
- It often goes away after pregnancy, but not without a good oral care routine at home
- More severe cases can result in premature births and lower than expected birth rates
- For women who are trying to conceive, the presence of gum disease can delay conception by 2 to 3 months
It turns out that gum disease also affects a whole host of other body systems, too, but for now I’ll stay focused – after all, I am brushing (and flossing) for two now!
Hi, My Name is Jessica and I have Pregnancy Gingivitis. Now What?
Great. There goes my perfect oral health record – ruined! My dentist was quick to assure me that the world was indeed not ending (he must read facial expressions well). Many women experience this during pregnancy, and apparently I have a milder version. I don’t smoke, which is a big risk factor for both gum and pregnancy health, and I am in good health generally.
Some women may require a procedure called Scaling and Root Planing (commonly referred to as a “deep cleaning”) to address their condition, and others may require even more intensive treatment with a Periodontist, or gum specialist. My dentist recommend that I take good care of myself at home and focus on brushing for 2 minutes, twice a day, flossing, and using a mouthwash. He suggested I come in again at my next regular checkup (scheduled for September), but sooner if I experienced any pain or changes.
My At-Home Oral Hygiene Routine: Not as Great as I’d Thought
Of course, I refused to let this “ding” on my perfect dental health record go unchallenged. For two weeks following my appointment, I kept track of my brushing and flossing routine, and was careful to be as honest with myself as possible.
As it turns out, my routine was not quite as “routine” as it used to be before I had my son. I was definitely brushing every day, twice a day. However, some days I’d wake up late and forget to brush until I’d already been up for a few hours. Other times, I’d cut a corner or two on my two-minute routine, especially before bedtime. I know this because I have an electric brush that pulses every 30 seconds and turns off at 2 minutes, but I would sometimes think “OK, all done, can I PLEASE go to bed now?” and turn off my brush before it turned itself off.
And then there was my flossing. I was probably flossing on average 4 days a week, maybe 5 if I give myself a little more credit. But definitely not every day. I was so busy and focused on my family that I was letting go of one of my most valued routines. Combine that with pregnancy hormones, and BAM. A recipe for gingivitis.
Back on Track: Checking (and Hopefully Curing) My Pregnancy Gum Disease
I’m sharing my story because I’m one of the apparently 40% of pregnant people and one of the 47% of adults in the U.S. that have some form of gum disease. I can’t be the only busy person who lost track of their routine a little, right? In most cases gum disease can be cured and prevented, and I fully intend to have the best possible outcome.
Starting today, March 20, 2015 I am 100% committed to the following:
- Brushing for two minutes per day, twice a day (no cutting corners)
- Flossing at least once per day
- Using mouth wash/rinse at least once per day
- Tracking my progress (NO CHEATING)
- Adding as many gum-healthy foods to my diet as possible
- Checking in every few days or so on this blog to see how things are going, with a wrap-up at the end of April
Misery and motivation both love company, so if you want to try this along with me, I’d love to hear how things are going! Leave a note in the comments and share your story, too!
Yours in (dental) Health,