What Every Mom Should Know about Pregnancy and Oral Health

Pregnant woman in kitchen eating a salad smilingDuring pregnancy, there are many unique physiologic changes that can have a detrimental effect on oral health.  

Hormonal changes, morning sickness, poor diet, and an increased gag reflex are obstacles that can put the expectant mother at risk for tooth decay and gingivitis.  Becoming knowledgeable regarding the causes of dental disease and adopting good oral hygiene practices are even more necessary at this time.

What is Pregnancy Gingivitis and Why Am I at Risk?

The most common oral complications during pregnancy are tender, red, swollen, sensitive, and bleeding gums, known as pregnancy gingivitis.  The hormonal changes during pregnancy change the body’s natural response to dental plaque, and thus exaggerate the way the gum tissues react, resulting in a higher chance of pregnant women getting gingivitis. The risk of getting gingivitis increases beginning with the second month of pregnancy and decreases with the ninth month. If you already have gingivitis going in to a pregnancy, it will likely get worse during pregnancy if you do not get treatment.  Keep in mind that it is bacteria, not hormonal changes, that causes gingivitis.  Hormonal changes only exacerbate the condition. 

What is a Pregnancy Tumor?

Pregnancy tumors (pyogenic granuloma) are benign lesions that are part of the exaggerated response to the bacteria plaque that causes gum disease.  Only a small percentage of pregnant women experience this, and it is recommended that these women see a dentist for treatment.

What is Periodontal Disease?

As plaque accumulates, the incidence of periodontal disease increases.  Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection below the gum line, which stimulates a chronic inflammatory response that results in destruction of the tissues and bone that support the teeth.

What Can Happen If I Have Periodontal Disease?

Bacteria from periodontal disease can be transmitted through the blood and amniotic fluid in the womb to your unborn child.  This could contribute to an increased risk of a premature delivery, a low birth-weight baby, preeclampsia, premature onset of contractions, or infection of the newborn child.  This evidence could have an important implication for women and babies’ heath since simple improvement of dental hygiene may help to reduce the incidence of unknown complications in pregnancy and newborn babies.

How Do I Prevent These Conditions?

See your dentist for an exam and a professional cleaning, then stay current with routine check-ups.  Your dentist will discuss diet, oral hygiene instructions, and what to expect as your pregnancy progresses.  Maintain meticulous oral hygiene by brushing 2-3 times a day and flossing at least once daily.  If you are suffering from morning sickness, rinse your mouth with water frequently and/or brush your teeth as often as possible to neutralize the acid.  Consume adequate levels of vitamins A, B12, and D to help maintain healthy gums, or consult with your obstetrician about prenatal vitamin supplements. 

A healthy mom equals a healthy baby – and that’s something to smile about! 

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