Pregnancy is a blessing.
It’s a time of change for our bodies though, and given the relationship between oral and overall health, dental care has never been more important.
Pregnant women should be aware that the hormonal changes they undergo during this critical period increases their susceptibility to periodontal diseases.
Research shows that those inflicted with this condition may be at higher risk of delivering low birth weight infants, pre-term childbirth, and even preeclemapsia.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is a chronic bacterial infection caused by the formation and prolonged exposure to the bacteria and toxins in dental plaque. The condition affects the gum tissues and its supporting structure. If the advancement of the disease is not thwarted, it can lead to periodontitis and gingivitis that can both lead to tooth loss.
Gingivitis, the precursory stage of periodontal disease, causes gum swelling, redness, tenderness, and sometimes bleeding. Slacking on oral care and hormonal fluctuations increase gum sensitivity to plaque irritants. If the bacterial infection spreads to other vital organs through the bloodstream along with certain corroborating factors, both the unborn child and the expectant mother may be faced with formidable health threats.
Pregnancy tumors, another gum disease that occurs during pregnancy, are benign spots that emerge along with the body’s exaggerated inflammatory response to bacteria and other gum irritants. Although painless and non-cancerous, these growths should be professionally treated. Typically, pregnancy tumors go away after childbirth.
Periodontal Diseases and Pregnancy Problems: The Link
- C-reactive protein (CRP) – The saturation of this kind of protein in the bloodstream arises when there’s inflammation is some parts of the body. Widely associated with heart disease, CRP is now linked to premature delivery and preeclampsia. The existence of periodontal infections prompts the liver to produce higher levels of CRP, boosts the body’s natural inflammatory response, and possibly causes blood clots and heart attacks.
- Prostaglandin – This hormone is a labor-inducing compound stimulates uterine contractility and naturally secreted by the body to control inflammation. Expectant mothers suffering from periodontal diseases have elevated levels of prostaglandin, putting them at risk of premature labor and delivering infants with low birth weight.
- Bacteria spread – The accumulated bacteria in plaque and periodontal pockets can be transmitted to other portions of the body when it enters the bloodstream. Studies show that aggressive oral bacteria and other infectious agents have the tendency to also invade coronary arteries and mammary glands.
Oral Health Care and Pregnancy
Although most expectant mothers are hesitant in receiving dental treatments, it is important to know that good oral health care is vital during this stage. Oral infections that can affect the fetus can be tremendously avoided with professional dental checkups and cleanings.
Non-urgent dental issues that require major treatment are recommended to be postponed until after the child is delivered. Dentists recommend that necessary treatments be performed during the second trimester since the first three months of pregnancy is critical to fetal growth and organ development.
Periodontal Disease Prevention
Gum infection and other advanced diseases can all be prevented by practicing good oral hygiene practices:
- Brush twice a day and floss daily.
- Brush your teeth as often as possible and frequently swish your mouth with water, if you suffer from pregnancy sickness. These regimens help stabilize the acid that colonizes the mouth caused by regurgitation.
- If brushing triggers your morning sickness, brush with no toothpaste and rinse your mouth with a fluoridated mouthwash.
- Eat a proper diet rich in vitamins B12 and C.
- To maintain good oral health, continue visiting your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings.
Protecting the health of your smile is the key to a healthy pregnancy. Oral health care should not be neglected, instead it should be fortified to ensure the safety of both the mother and the unborn child.
Dentists can offer recommendations and dental education on efficient home care routines that can help minimize potential pregnancy-related health risks. Gum disease is a preventable condition, but necessitates good lifestyle habits, dietary modification, and the intake of recommended supplements.
To read more from Dr. Traci Johnson MD, on pregnancy and oral health, check out her article on WebMD at: http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/pregnancy-gingivitis-tumors