It’s something that most people don’t even consider: how much your pregnancy can affect your teeth. And, how much your dental health impacts your entire life.
Unfortunately, this is a topic that few obstetricians remember to address with their patients. Yet, dental care is a vital part of prenatal care. Take the initiative to talk to your obstetrician about your teeth and ask for a referral to see the dentist. This is a good time to institute or maintain good habits, for your baby, for your child, for your life!
For your Baby
The hormonal changes that occur with pregnancy can contribute to notable changes to the teeth and gums: gingivitis, tooth erosion, cavities and periodontal disease (a chronic infection of the gums and all the tissues that surround and support the teeth). More than half of all pregnant women do not get dental cleanings or checkups during pregnancy. This is because many women, as well as many dentists, are concerned about the risks of treatment in pregnancy. Imaging of the teeth with x-ray (with abdominal shielding) and the use of Lidocaine anesthetic (numbs the nerve before filling cavities) are both safe during pregnancy. 1
For Your Child
Parents who have clean mouths are less likely to transmit the cavity causing oral bacteria (Streptococcus Mutans) to children. It is now understood that it’s bacteria that primarily weakens teeth, causing pits and grooves on the surface. Tooth decay happens when damaged teeth are exposed to a high sugar diet.
For Your Life
Periodontal disease–red, beefy gums, that bleed easily—doubles the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and pneumonia. The mouth has a rich blood supply. The chemicals produced by the chronic inflammation and a heavy bacteria load in the mouth easily gets into the blood stream, injuring the heart and blood vessels. The path from the mouth to the lungs is direct and those with poor dentition are also at risk of getting pneumonia, especially those who drink, smoke or have a weakened immune system.2 This is so important that the American Dental Association has pledged to support the Million Hearts initiative to stem the number of people whose lives are affected by heart attacks and stroke.
Brush, floss and get regular dental check-ups. Good dental hygiene also means good general health. And, clean breath and healthy teeth are important for more than kissing!
Visit the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center and The American Dental Association for more information.
There you have it. Now spread the word!
- Data from National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center, Georgetown University. Oral health care during pregnancy: a national consensus statements. Oral Health Care During pregnancy Expert Work Group. Washington, DC: OHRC;2012. Available at: http://www.mchoralhealth.org/PDFs/OralHealth pregnancy Consensus. pdf. Retrieved may 17,2013
- Obstetrics & Gynecology: April 2008 – Volume 111 – Issue 4 – pp 976-986