Upon learning of their pregnancy, women nowadays are very careful with their diet and lifestyle – cutting down on coffee, stopping any fetal (baby) harmful medications, watching what they eat, and exercising more often. However, sometimes they forget about oral health, which is just as important during this period.
It is quite common for pregnant women to have dental problems during their new physiological state, where a report published by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated that around 40% of pregnant women may have cavities, gingivitis and periodontitis. If left untreated, these conditions can also extend harm to the baby.
The most common dental problem that occurs during pregnancy is gum infection. When the food eaten interacts with bacteria in the mouth, it results in the formation of plaque on the tooth’s surface. This plaque can cause both cavities and tartar by the gum line. Tartar, if left untreated, could cause gum infections that lead to gingivitis and eventually, periodontitis.
Gum infections – Gingivitis
Gingivitis or inflammation of gums is rather common in pregnancy. This causes gums to be swollen, red and tender and may bleed easily when irritated. In some cases, women develop benign tumors in the mouth, which should dissolve after giving birth.
Gingivitis occurs due to the increase in progesterone, a hormone that peaks during pregnancy. It causes an exaggerated reaction to the plaque that has been in the mouth. This response increases the risk of infection as plaque is comprised of toxins and harmful bacteria.
Unfortunately, brushing and flossing alone will not resolve gingivitis. If it is not treated, it could lead to periodontitis, a more severe gum infection. Periodontitis is said to increase the risk for premature birth and a baby with low birth weight or abnormal heart rate.
There is also an increase in the risk of developing dental problems during pregnancy if the woman has had periodontitis in the past.
Here are preventive and corrective actions that can be taken to address gum infections.
Brushing and flossing
Brushing after meals and flossing once a day are the most ideal preventive actions pregnant women can take to avoid gum infections. To be safe, alcohol-free products should be used to avoid harmful chemicals that can harm the pregnancy. Also, a tongue scraper works to remove bacteria that accumulate on the tongue.
Dentist check up
According to studies, around 35% of women have not visited their dentist for at least one year before pregnancy, and still don’t go for a visit during pregnancy. Experts say that going to the dentist to check oral health is just as important as going to an OB-GYN doctor for a regular check up.
Regular dental cleanings
Research says that routine dental cleanings do not pose any threat to either the mother or the baby during pregnancy. It is recommended that such cleanings be performed as this is the best line of defence a mother could have against developing gum infections
Pregnant women are now more aware of the food they eat to ensure that they make the best nutrition available for the growing baby. It is ideal to eat fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts as well as lean meat. Water intake is also very important to prevent the mouth from getting dry.
Sugar-free gum, that is. Saliva is a great natural defence mechanism that fights bacteria in the mouth. Chewing on sugar-free gum can increase the flow of saliva that can wash away food particles as well as neutralizes the acids produced by bacteria in plaque. Look for gums with xylitol to increase the protection.
Don’t leave them unattended
It is imperative that pregnant women see a dentist if and when an infection occurs. Leaving it unattended will not resolve itself, but instead aggravate the problem as these are harmful bacteria that do not stop growing and moving. If plaque is neglected by failing to follow good oral hygiene, it will lead to gum infection and tooth cavities that can cause decay. Tooth abscess poses a great risk to both the mother and the baby, and is rather painful. It is also said that dental infections may cause premature birth, pre-eclampsia, delays in development of the child, and in extreme cases even miscarriage.
To receive guidance on oral health maintenance during pregnancy, contact The Greenspoint Dental to schedule an appointment.