Every pregnant woman knows that her body will go through a series of profound changes as it's making a new life. Along with the alterations in overall size and changes in eating and sleeping patterns, pregnancy also affects the teeth and gums. Here are some answers to common questions women may have about oral health during pregnancy.
1) What's the most important thing I can do for my baby's oral health?
Maintain your own dental and general health! Eat a healthy and balanced diet — it provides the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed for proper development of your baby's teeth and bones. While food cravings and aversions are common, try to at least limit your intake of sugary snacks to mealtimes. Don't neglect the good habits of brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist regularly. This will help minimize the possibility of tooth decay or gum disease.
2) Does pregnancy make me more susceptible to gum disease?
Yes. “Pregnancy gingivitis” (“gingival” – gum tissue; “it is” – inflammation of) may develop from the second to the eighth month. This is mostly due to elevated hormone levels. In the presence of gum disease, pregnancy hormones may stimulate the production of prostaglandins, which cause inflammation of gum tissues. Occasionally, benign growths called “pregnancy tumors” may also appear on the gums during the second trimester. If they don't resolve themselves, these may be surgically removed after the baby is born.
3) With all my other concerns right now, why is the health of my teeth and gums so important?
Several studies have shown a link between periodontal (gum) disease, pre-term delivery and low birth weight — conditions which put some newborns at greater risk for health complications. There's also a correlation between more severe periodontal disease and an increased rate of pre-eclampsia, a potentially serious condition. But treating periodontal disease decreases the level of inflammation-causing prostaglandins. That's one reason why you should come into our office for an evaluation as soon as you know you're expecting.
4) Is it safe to get dental treatments while I'm pregnant?
Dental examinations and routine treatment during pregnancy is generally safe for both mom and baby. If you need non-urgent dental care, it may be most comfortable in the first five months of pregnancy. Situations requiring urgent care are managed as they arise, to treat pain and infection and to reduce stress to the developing fetus. Under the watchful eye of your dentist, it's possible to have anesthesia, X-rays and dental medications (if needed) without undue risk. So don't let worries about dental treatments keep you from coming in for a check-up!
If you would like more information about pregnancy and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Pregnancy and Oral Health,” and “Expectant Mothers.”