Baby Steps to a Healthy Pregnancy and
an On-Time Delivery
You've probably heard a few old wives' tales about pregnancy, including “A tooth lost for every child.” While it seems far-fetched, this wives' tale is actually based loosely in fact. Just as your tissues in your body are affected by pregnancy, so are your teeth and gums. What you probably didn't know is that the health of your gums may also affect your baby-to-be.
How does pregnancy affect your teeth and gums?About half of women experience pregnancy gingivitis. This condition can be uncomfortable and cause swelling, bleeding, redness or tenderness in the gum tissue. Conversely, a more advanced oral health condition called periodontal disease (a serious gum infection that destroys attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold teeth in the mouth) may affect the health of your baby.
Is periodontal disease linked to preterm low birthweight babies?
Studies have shown a relationship between periodontal disease and preterm, low birthweight babies. In fact, pregnant women with periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that's born too early and too small. But what causes periodontal disease during pregnancy? The likely culprit is a labor-inducing chemical found in oral bacteria called prostaglandin. Very high levels of prostaglandin are found in women with severe cases of periodontal disease.
“Any infection, including periodontal infection, is cause for concern during pregnancy,” said
Gordon Douglass, D.D.S., president of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). “Pre-existing periodontal disease or periodontal disease that increases in severity during pregnancy can also increase a woman's chances of a preterm low birthweight baby. Because periodontal disease is often “silent,” many women don't know they have it, so a periodontal evaluation is definitely a good idea prior to becoming pregnant.”
Treating periodontal disease and/or removing gingivitis may also prevent other oral complications. “Beginning in the second or third month of pregnancy, expectant mothers often experience increased gingivitis also called pregnancy gingivitis that increases in severity throughout the eighth month,” said Douglass. “Significant progression of pregnancy gingivitis can lead to more severe periodontal infections.” The increase in estrogen and progesterone levels during this time causes the gums to react differently to the bacteria in plaque. This reaction causes swelling, bleeding, redness or tenderness in the gum tissue.
“The good news is women who treat their periodontal health prior to pregnancy decrease their chances of experiencing pregnancy gingivitis.” said Douglass. “Women should always take extra care of their oral health because their hormonal fluctuations can affect many tissues, including gum tissues.”
What if I'm diagnosed with periodontal disease during pregnancy?If you're diagnosed with periodontal disease, our dental hygienists, Dr. Versman and/or Dr. Heller might recommend a common non-surgical procedure called scaling and root planing. During this procedure, your tooth-root surfaces are cleaned to remove plaque and tartar from deep periodontal pockets and smooth the root to remove bacterial toxins. Research suggests that scaling and root planing may reduce the risk of preterm births in pregnant women with periodontal disease. The added bonus is that the procedure should alleviate many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with pregnancy gingivitis, such as swelling and tenderness of the gums.
As you make your way through your “to-do” checklist, remember to check off a visit to your dentist or Periodontal Associates. This baby step benefits you and your unborn baby.
Premature births: the answers can't come soon enoughAccording to the March of Dimes, premature births have soared to become the number one obstetric problem in the United States. Many premature babies come into the world with serious health problems. Those who survive may suffer life-long consequences, from cerebral palsy and mental retardation to blindness.
The March of Dimes has launched a $75 million, five-year campaign to raise public awareness and reduce rates of preterm birth and increase research to find the cause. Until all of the answers are in, the March of Dimes recommends the following to reduce the risk and/or effects of a premature birth:
- Consume a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of the B vitamin folic acid before and in the early months of pregnancy.
- Stop smoking.
- Stop drinking and/or using illicit drugs, or prescription or over-the-counter drugs (including herbal preparations) not prescribed by a doctor aware of the pregnancy.
- Once pregnant, get early regular prenatal care, eat a balanced diet with enough calories (usually about 300 more than a woman normally eats), and gain enough weight
(25 to 35 poundsis usually recommended).
- Talk to your doctor about signs of premature labor, and what to do if you show any of the warning signs.
Be sure to share this important health information with the Mommies-to-be in your life.
For an appointment in the Denver area, please contact Periodontal Associates at 303-755-4500.