As a mama that had two unexplained premature labors–did my oral health have an impact?–, I thought it may be helpful to shine a light on a topic that gets little awareness during pregnancy. There’s already so many appointments and things on the to-do list to focus on that our oral health is not always the highest priority. But I urge you to not only pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth in terms of your diet, but also how you’re caring for your mouth as it can have a greater impact than you realize.
Michelle

This is a guest blog post by Dr. Amanda Tavoularis (dentably.com)

Many pregnant don’t know that their dental health can greatly affect their pregnancy. In fact, 18 out of 100 premature births are believed to be caused by gum or periodontal disease. This is why it’s important to take care of your dental health to help prevent this disease. I have been practicing dentistry for nearly 20 years and have worked with expecting mothers on keeping their mouth as healthy as possible so that they can safely carry their baby to term.

1. Dental Care Routine

In order to help prevent gum disease, you should continue an effective dental care routine during your pregnancy. Good dental hygiene consists of brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and using an antimicrobial mouth rinse. Be sure to implement this routine for yourself if you haven’t already.

You should also work to maintain a healthy and balanced diet during your pregnancy to protect your teeth and gums from decay. While it’s normal to experience sugary cravings and junk food, eating foods high in sugar can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, so enjoy your sweets in moderation and always clean your teeth afterwards. Try to focus on incorporating more vegetables, lean proteins, and nuts and seeds into your diet while you are pregnant.

2. Dental Visits

Another way to work towards preventing gum disease while pregnant is to continue visiting your dentist regularly. Professional dental cleanings are more important during your pregnancy and are essential in preventing tooth decay and gum disease. If you are scheduled to have a dental exam during your pregnancy, try your best not to skip it. Ask your dentist for an evaluation of your periodontal health so you uncover any issues that you may have with your gums. Let your dentist know that you are expecting and they will be able to accommodate you and your baby’s needs.

Pregnant woman brushing teeth — Image by © JGI/Blend Images/Corbis

3. Treatment

If you’ve been diagnosed with gum disease or believe that you may have it, it is important to seek treatment quickly to prevent delivering your child preterm. Gum disease is a serious condition that can worsen quickly. Plus, the bacteria from it can attack the ligaments, gums, and bones surrounding your teeth to create infected pockets similar to large infected wounds in the oral cavity. These pockets can also provide access to your bloodstream and allow bacteria to travel throughout your body, down to the uterus and placenta.

Visiting your regular dentist is the best way to treat gingivitis or gum disease. However, please note that most doctors recommend waiting until your second trimester before taking on any dental procedures. When you schedule an appointment for treatment, your dentist will give you a deep cleaning to help get rid of plaque and build-up that’s contributing to the disease. If your gum disease worsens your dentist or doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help combat the infection. In the most severe cases, you may need to have a procedure done to help remove the bacteria. Be sure to talk with your dentist and doctor about the safest method for you to combat your gingivitis. Your doctor will know which medications are safe for you during your pregnancy, but be sure to let them know of any allergies that you have.

Becoming pregnant is special and you should cherish this time in your life and it’s important that you are healthy as you can be during this time. Premature births are more common in mother’s with poor dental health, so be sure to take precautionary measures to make sure that your mouth is as healthy as possible for you and your baby.

A good dental care routine, regular dental visits, and seeking treatment are some of the best ways to help prevent gum disease and preterm birth. This is a wonderful and special time in your life and you should embrace the amazing changes happening to your body. You are growing a human so it’s always important to prioritize you and your baby’s health as you wait to welcome your new little one.

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