TikTok is filled with weird factoids from doctors, nurses, and med school students about stuff you weren’t even aware you needed to know. And now, there’s a new one, courtesy of a dental student.
TikTok user and fourth-year dental student Sukhmani (@thatdentalgal_) said in a video that’s gone viral that dentists can tell if you’re pregnant just by looking in your mouth. “This is not only due to the nausea and enamel erosion but due to something called pregnancy gingivitis which is seen in 30 to 50% of pregnant patients,” she says.
Pregnancy gingivitis, Sukhmani explained, causes the gums to become inflamed, tender, and red, and can lead to bleeding and sensitivity.
Plenty of people shared their own stories of pregnancy gingivitis in the comments. “My gums bled so much during pregnancy!!” one wrote. “During my cleaning, they were extra careful because even the smallest touch caused so much bleeding.” Someone else chimed in with, “Pregnancy really ruins you, doesn’t it?”
Is pregnancy gingivitis real?
Yes; the American Dental Association (ADA) actually warns that women are more likely to develop gingivitis during pregnancy.
Gingivitis is an infection of your gums (gingivae) that can lead to swelling and tenderness. When you have gingivitis, your gums may bleed a little when you brush or floss, the ADA says. And, if you leave gingivitis untreated, it can weaken the supportive tissues that hold your teeth in place-meaning your teeth can fall out.
During pregnancy, gingivitis can also show up as lumps along your gumline-called “pregnancy tumors.” (Don’t panic, they’re not cancerous.) These bumps usually go away on their own after you give birth, but they can be removed if they bother you, the ADA states.
Why is gingivitis a risk during pregnancy? It comes down to a change in hormones, Angelo Mariotti, DDS, PhD, chair of the division of periodontology at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry, tells Health. That can impact everything from your immune system to cells responses in your gums, he says.
“Even people that take really good care of their mouth” can suddenly develop sensitive gums and bleeding, Mark Wolff, DDS, PhD, dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, tells Health.
Can your doctor actually tell if you’re pregnant by looking in your mouth?
Not really. In fact, Dr. Wolff calls this “an overstatement.” While you’re at an increased risk of developing gingivitis when you’re pregnant, many people have the condition outside of pregnancy. “Women can develop gingivitis without being pregnant,” Dr. Mariotti says. “Men also develop gingivitis.”
“It’s a real reach to say that you can tell someone is pregnant by looking in their mouth,” Stefanie Russell, DDS, MPH, PhD, clinical associate professor of epidemiology and health promotion at NYU College of Dentistry who studies oral health in pregnant women, tells Health.
Pregnancy gingivitis will often happen in the second trimester and, “increase gradually, especially if it’s not treated,” Dr. Russell says. But, she adds, “by the time someone would notice it, you’re going to know you’re pregnant anyway.”
Nearly 50% of Americans have some type of periodontal disease, which includes gingivitis in its earlier stages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC lists a slew of potential causes, including smoking, heredity, poor oral hygiene, medications that cause dry mouth, and fillings that have become defective.
Basically, many factors outside of pregnancy can raise your risk of developing gingivitis. Also, there are many women who are pregnant and don’t have gingivitis, so this is hardly a scientific way to tell if you’re pregnant.
But, if you have been seeing the same dentist for years, you’ve always had healthy gums and teeth, and you suddenly start experiencing bleeding, Dr. Wolff says your doctor might consider whether you’re pregnant or have another underlying health condition.
Still, Dr. Wolff says, “the first thing we think about is whether the patient is cleaning their teeth well.”
If you’re pregnant and concerned about your dental health (as you should be), the ADA recommends continuing to see your dentist for cleanings, brushing and flossing regularly, and eating a healthy diet. And, of course, if you develop any symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis, see your dentist ASAP for relief.
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