Now you’re pregnant – congratulations! You’re seeing your doctor regularly for checkups and ultrasounds; you’ve got a cozy place prepared and a birth plan all ready to go. But besides all that, have you remembered to keep up with regular trips to the dentist for exams and cleanings?
Compared to all the other things you’re doing, it may seem that routine dental visits don’t rank high on the list. But in fact, that isn’t so: Did you know that your own oral health is closely linked to your baby’s health… and that pregnant women are at increased risk for some potentially serious dental issues? Let’s take a closer look at why maintaining oral hygiene is so important during pregnancy—and what you can do to keep it up.
Pregnancy is a time of dramatic changes. Many changes in the body are mediated by changing levels of hormones, such as progesterone. While increasing progesterone has beneficial effects, it can also have negative ones. One of these effects is to make the gums much more susceptible to periodontal disease. As a result, many expectant mothers develop a gum disease called “pregnancy gingivitis” between the second and eighth month.
Gingivitis can result in gum sensitivity, swelling, bleeding and inflammation. If left untreated, it can develop into a more serious condition called periodontitis, which may eventually result in tooth loss. What’s worse, untreated gum disease can affect your unborn child. Recent studies have suggested that oral bacteria associated with gum disease can pass through the placenta to the fetus; this could lead to the problems associated with pre-term delivery and low birth weight.
In addition to gingivitis and periodontitis, pregnancy hormones may have another affect on a future mom’s gums: They can cause a condition called “pregnancy tumors,” which look like small red berries emerging from the gums. While they are completely benign (not cancerous), these growths may be unsightly, are likely to bleed, and will probably need to be removed.
But there’s good news: With proper attention to oral hygiene—including both at-home care and visits to your dentist or periodontist as needed—the oral problems associated with pregnancy can be kept under control. Here’s how:
At home, you can help maintain good oral health by eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and avoiding sugary foods and beverages—especially between meals. It’s also vital to practice effective oral hygiene: Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, and floss once a day. This will help reduce the level of harmful bacteria in your mouth, which contribute to tooth decay and gum disease.
For some pregnant women, however, even the most conscientious at-home hygiene isn’t enough to prevent gum disease from getting started. That’s why it is so important to see your dentist regularly when you’re expecting a baby. He or she will examine you for the early signs of a problem, and recommend the most appropriate treatments—whether they are done right in the office, or by a specialist, such as a periodontist.
Pregnancy can be a stressful time…and a joyful one. Maintaining good oral health during this period can lessen the risks to yourself and your baby—and give you one less thing to worry about as you prepare for your child’s birth. To learn more call one of our :DP AtYourService Customer Care Representatives at 1-800-238-5163.