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Teeth and gums in pregnancy - Your pregnancy and baby guide

Some women get swollen and sore gums, which may bleed, during 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.

Find out more about treating gum disease.

Your dentist will be able to help with this. Dental care is free during pregnancy and until 1 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 1 and 2 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 clean and healthy 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 show you how to keep your teeth clean at home.

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

  • Clean your teeth carefully twice a day for 2 minutes with a fluoride toothpaste – ask your dentist to show you a good brushing method to remove plaque.
  • Floss once a day to remove small bits of food from between your teeth, which will help to prevent the build-up of 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 foods such as vegetables, fresh fruit or plain yoghurt, and avoid sugary or acidic foods (find more healthy snack ideas). 
  • Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
  • Stop smoking, as it can make gum disease worse.
  • A daily salt rinse (1 teaspoon of salt added to a cup of warm water) can help reduce gum inflammation. Swirl the wash around your mouth a few times before spitting it out (do not swallow).

If you have morning sickness (nausea and vomiting), rinse your mouth with plain water after each time you are sick. This will help prevent the acid in your vomit from damaging 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 brushing.

Find out more about the symptoms of gum disease.

Dental treatments to avoid in pregnancy

When you go to the dentist, make sure they know you're pregnant.

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

If you need a dental X-ray, your dentist will usually wait until you've had your baby, even though most dental X-rays do not affect the tummy (abdomen) or pelvic area.

Find out more about caring for your teeth and gums, including check-ups and brushing.

Page last reviewed: 19 August 2019
Next review due: 19 August 2022