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Why Pregnant Women Should Focus on Oral Care

By Martha Michael

Oral Health for Pregnant Moms

Knowing “what to expect when you’re expecting” is on the minds of most first-time parents as they see their due date approaching. It’s not uncommon to wonder what to imbibe, how much exercise is appropriate, and how to get proper sleep and nutrition to maintain strength and wellness. What doesn’t get a lot of attention, however, are the effects of oral health practices on both mother and baby.

How Pregnancy Affects a Woman’s Oral Health

In the old days there was a saying among women, “gain a child, lose a tooth.” It was simple and exaggerated, but women do have additional challenges when they’re expecting and that includes a heightened calcium requirement and changes to their teeth and gums.

An article by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that pregnant women are more prone to cavities and periodontitis, or gum disease. Gingivitis is one of the first signs you’re developing periodontal disease and 60 to 75 percent of pregnant women have the primary symptom of red, swollen gums. The increase in hormones resulting from pregnancy can aggravate the condition; if left untreated, it can cause:

  • Infection
  • Loss of bone strength
  • Loss of teeth
  • Adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth

Dental cavities are caused by the presence of bacteria in your mouth, which tends to be greater in mothers-to-be. The side effects of pregnancy can also contribute to the problem indirectly. Many women eat more often during pregnancy, which means there are more opportunities for cavity-causing bacteria to develop. Nausea occurs for some expectant mothers and sometimes it leads to vomiting, which can degrade your teeth.

Part of the problem is already in place before a woman decides to expand her family. Research shows that 1 in 4 women of childbearing age have cavities regardless of their pregnancy status.

The Impact of Oral Health on a Fetus

The starting point for a child’s earliest threat to their oral health begins in the mouth of a pregnant mom, says an article on HealthyChildren.org. When her dental habits are lax and bacteria is allowed to grow, it enters her bloodstream, which transports it to other parts of the body. If it reaches the uterus, it triggers the release of hormones known as prostaglandins, which can incite early labor.

Good oral self-care begins even before you’re pregnant, but neglecting the onset of tooth decay or gum disease can have an effect on your baby after birth. Because of the close physical contact between mother and baby, there are countless possibilities that a woman can transmit bacteria from her mouth to her baby’s.

The presence of damaging bacteria can create complications for your baby’s birth and increase the probability they will acquire a dental infection later. To reduce the chances, pregnant women should brush with fluoride toothpaste.

Preventing and Treating Risks to Oral Health

Advice for expectant moms in maximizing the health of their teeth and gums applies to anyone at any phase, so it’s a good idea for everyone in the family to stay on top of it.

The March of Dimes has an article with a list of symptoms that may be threat to their oral health begins in the mouth of a pregnant mom, says an article on signs you have dental problems:

  • Toothache
  • Loose teeth
  • Newly formed spaces between teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Receding gums
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed easily

Take preventative measures to maximize your oral health beginning with a conversation with your dentist. Let him or her know if you’re pregnant or planning to start a family. Discuss medications you’re taking and ask about herbal supplements if necessary. Also share your status if your pregnancy is high risk.

Like visits to your chiropractor and other medical professionals, make regular appointments a priority. Between dental checkups, make sure you brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss daily, and rinse with mouthwash. Watch what you consume as well. Choose water instead of sugary soft drinks and keep your sweets to a minimum.

Between countless books and the presence of grandmas, grandpas, doctors, and doulas, parents-to-be have plenty of advice to chew on. But it’s worth the extra attention where the health of mom and baby are concerned, such as the need for optimum oral health practices for the best outcome you can expect.

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