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Pregnancy and oral health

​​​​​​Pregnant womanNHS treatment is free during pregnancy and up until your baby is one year old.

During pregnancy, a woman is more susceptible to oral conditions, including:

  • Tooth decay
  • Erosion and sensitivity
  • Gum problems – including pregnancy gingivitis (gum disease) and pregnancy epulis​
  • Periodontal infection

Gum Problems

Gum problems in pregnancy may increase due to nausea – which may prevent effective tooth brushing and oral hygiene – and hormonal changes.

Some pregnant women may develop gingivitis. The condition usually resolves itself after pregnancy, but can lead to permanent damage in the gums if left untreated. Pregnancy gingivitis can affect all women, including those who had healthy gums and excellent oral hygiene.


  • Bleeding when brushing
  • Sudden bleeding
  • Irritation or “itching” of the gums
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
Signs of pregnancy gingivitis (what the dental professional will see)
  • Gums – red, shiny, swollen, smooth
  • Increased tendency for gums to bleed when gently probed

Good oral hygiene can reduce pregnancy gingivitis.

Make sure you also attend regular hygiene appointments. Your dental professional will be able to give support and guidance for cleaning your teeth. Tartar (hardened plaque) can not be removed by brushing and interdental cleaning alone - it needs to be removed by mechanical means. Your dental professional will be able to scale your teeth to remove any hard deposits, which will make it easier for you to clean your teeth.

Tooth decay

Tooth decay can increase in pregnancy due to:

  • Snacking frequently – appetite often increases in the later stages of pregnancy and, if a person eats sugary snacks regularly, this can lead to tooth decay.
  • Cravings – often for sweet food.
  • Nausea – can lead to reduced tooth brushing.

Tips to reduce this risk:

  • Restrict sugar consumption to the 3 main mealtimes.
  • Avoid sugary snacks. If hungry in-between meals, try to have a healthy sugar-free snack.

Ideas for snacks:

  • Fruit – citrus fruit, such as oranges and grapefruit, and dried fruit should be restricted to mealtimes
  • Vegetable sticks – such as cucumber, pepper, celery and carrots
  • Breadsticks
  • Toast
  • Crumpets
  • Savoury sandwich
  • Unsweetened porridge
  • Potato cakes
  • Naan bread
  • Chapattis
  • Plain rice cakes
  • Plain popcorn

Smoking during pregnancy

Smoking can help to make gum problems worse. It cause plaque in the mouth to be stickier, it dries the mouth, and it masks the signs of gum disease - your gums will not bleed when puffy and swollen because the blood flow and oxygen is reduced and replaced with carbon monoxide.

Smoking in pregnancy not only affects your own health, but also the health of your unborn child. Find out about the risks of smoking during pregnancy