Oral Health and Pregnancy
Oral Health and Pregnancy
Although maintaining good oral health during pregnancy is vital, many expecting mothers avoid visiting the dentist. Why? Well, there are many reasons. Unfortunately, financial issues and lack of dental insurance make it difficult for some patients to receive optimal oral care. Perhaps placing a bigger emphasis on the importance of oral health during pregnancy may help women receive additional financial assistance during this special period in their lives.
There are also women who – although have dental insurance – avoid routine checkups in fear that procedures may harm their baby. I assure my patients that routine dental procedures do not pose risks to the fetus. Actually, some evidence suggests a connection between gum disease and the occurrence of preterm births, resulting in low birth weight infants. The exact connection, however, is unknown.
What we do know is that good oral hygiene during the perinatal period may in fact decrease the amount of pathogenic bacteria transmitted to the infant. For example, mothers can transmit oral bacteria when sharing spoons with their baby (a common parenting practice). But control of oral disease also protects the mother’s health, which is important for a better quality of life.
Hormonal changes experienced during pregnancy do affect oral health. We see expecting mothers develop gingivitis that if left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis, which can affect the bone structure supporting your teeth. To prevent gingivitis, I recommend frequent professional cleanings and brushing your teeth twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste. Don’t forget to floss! Taking prenatal vitamins and following a nutritious diet are also important. Choose more protein and calcium fortified foods instead of sugary treats that build up plaque and cause cavities.
What we also see in pregnant patients are lumps that appear along the gum line and between the teeth. Although harmless, the lumps can bleed. These red “pregnancy tumors” usually disappear after pregnancy, but, in some cases, can become bothersome. The goods news is that we can safely remove these lesions under local anesthesia. Necessary x-rays, local anesthesia, and most antibiotics are generally safe during pregnancy. Ignoring oral health proves more harmful!
The best time to receive elective dental care is during one’s second trimester. Remember, prevention is key to good oral health. If we identify problems during routine checkups, we can treat them sooner, avoiding emergency and invasive procedures.