Pregnancy is one of the most joyful (and anxious) times in a woman’s life. The excitement over bringing a new life into the world is incomparable. New and expectant mothers, however, need to be extra vigilant regarding their health, as it directly affects that of their child.
Often overlooked in all of the testing and monitoring of a pregnant woman’s health is her oral health. Every expectant mom should have a checkup with her physician during her pregnancy to evaluate her dental status.
Of particular concern is gum disease or periodontal disease. New moms are particularly susceptible due to their changing hormones. In fact, almost half of pregnant women have swollen and red gums, often with bleeding. This is known as pregnancy gingivitis.
Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease. If the gingivitis is mild and does not progress, it will not adversely affect the pregnancy or the child. If a woman has a severe case of gum disease, however, it can lead to problems.
Studies have shown that advanced gum disease can lead to low birth weights and premature births. CDC research has shown that low birth weight babies are at a higher risk of developing long term problems like learning disabilities and poor motor skills. Some research suggests a risk of developing preeclampsia, but this has not been solidly proven.
Women can also develop tumors in the mouth during pregnancy. The tumors are benign and usually painless. They will typically disappear after you give birth, but sometimes they do not and will be required to be removed surgically.
Smoking and diabetes are contributing factors to developing gum disease and pregnant women should refrain from smoking, and if they are diabetic, they should be carefully monitored by their physician.
Expectant women can do some things to prevent gingivitis from starting or stop it before it progresses into the advanced stages.
Good oral hygiene habits are important in protecting the new mom and unborn child. Regular flossing and brushing is essential. Brushing and flossing help to prevent plaque buildup. Plaque harbors bacteria that can be harmful to your health.
Plaque, if not addressed, can turn into tartar. Tartar can only be removed by a professional cleaning. The tartar also contains bacteria and if not removed can lead to severe complications from periodontal disease. It is important to stop the plaque before it turns into tartar.
Getting a professional cleaning is advised while you are pregnant. The second trimester is generally suggested as a good time to have this performed.
Keeping your teeth and gums clean and healthy can protect both you and your unborn child. These conditions are easily preventable with little effort on your part.
If you have any questions regarding your dental health while pregnant, contact both your physician and your dentist with your concerns.
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