Pregnancy and baby

Teeth and gums in pregnancy

Some women get swollen and sore gums, which may bleed, in pregnancy. Bleeding gums are caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make your gums more vulnerable to plaque, leading to inflammation and bleeding. This is also called pregnancy gingivitis or gum disease.

Your dentist will be able to help with this. Dental care is free during pregnancy and until one year after your due date. To get free dental care, you need to apply for a maternity exemption certificate (MatEx). Ask your doctor, nurse or midwife for form FW8. You complete parts one and two of the form, and your doctor, midwife or nurse signs it to confirm that the information you've given is correct. Find an NHS dentist near you.

Keeping teeth and gums healthy in pregnancy

It's very important to keep your teeth and gums as clean and healthy as possible while you're pregnant. The best way to prevent or deal with gum problems is to practise good oral hygiene. Go to the dentist so they can give your teeth a thorough clean and give you some advice about keeping your teeth clean at home.

Here's how you can look after your teeth and gums: 

  • Clean your teeth carefully twice a day for two minutes – ask your dentist to show you a good brushing method to remove all the plaque.
  • Brushing is best with a small-headed toothbrush with soft filaments – make sure it's comfortable to hold.
  • Avoid having sugary drinks (such as fizzy drinks or sweet tea) and sugary foods too often – try to keep them to meal times.
  • If you're hungry between meals, snack on vegetables and avoid sugary or acidic foods (get tips on healthy snacks). 
  • Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
  • Stop smoking, as it can make gum disease worse.

If you have morning sickness and you vomit, rinse your mouth afterwards with plain water. This will help prevent the acid in your vomit attacking your teeth. Do not brush your teeth straight away as they will be softened by the acid from your stomach. Wait about an hour before doing so.

Dental treatments to avoid in pregnancy

Discuss with your dentist whether any new or replacement fillings should be delayed until after your baby is born. The Department of Health advises that amalgam fillings shouldn't be removed during pregnancy.

If you need a dental X-ray, your dentist will usually wait until you've had the baby, even though most dental X-rays don't affect the tummy (abdomen) or pelvic area. Make sure your dentist knows that you're pregnant.

Find out what the symptoms of gum disease are.

Page last reviewed: 17/07/2014

Next review due: 17/07/2016

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How to care for your teeth including check-ups, brushing, braces and whitening

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