Pregnancy and Oral Health: What You Need to Know

pregnancyphoto2November is Prematurity Awareness Month, making it an opportune time to discuss the importance of good oral hygiene during pregnancy. Did you know that pregnant women are 70% more likely to experience gingivitis than the average adult? Even more alarming, studies continue to show a link between gingivitis in pregnant women and low-weight or premature births. Fortunately, practicing good oral hygiene and visiting your dental provider during pregnancy can significantly reduce these risks. Read on for more info.

Pregnancy and Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums. The symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen and tender gums, bleeding while brushing, gums that recede or pull away from teeth, and recurring bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth. Many adults experience gingivitis and gum disease at some point in their lives, but the rate increases with pregnancy. There are many reasons for this increase, including hormone increases that bring on gum inflammation, morning sickness which can damage teeth enamel, increased sugar intake, and a strong gag reflex that might discourage pregnant women from brushing. Even with so many factors that can cause gingivitis, more than half of women report not seeing a dental provider during pregnancy–a startling statistic that can have serious consequences for women and their babies’ health.

The Mouth as a Gateway to the Body

The American Dental Association has declared that “the mouth is a window into the health of the body.” Over the last decade, research into oral hygiene and dental problems has revealed many connections between problems in the mouth, and problems in the rest of the body. Inflammation in the gums, for example, has been shown to weaken the body’s ability to control blood sugar and has been attributed to increased rates of diabetes. There is also a proven link between gum disease and heart disease. In addition, the mouth is the way our bodies receive nutrients, so if our gums are sore and swollen and our mouths hurt, we are less likely to eat healthy. For pregnant women, this can be detrimental to the woman’s and baby’s health.

Premature Births and Pregnancy Gingivitis

dentist_patientRecent studies are increasingly pointing to a direct link between gingivitis and premature births. 1 in 10 births in the United States are premature. Babies born prematurely are more prone to health issues such as growth and developmental deficiencies. While the reasons for the link are not yet known, researchers are cautioning dental providers to be diligent in educating patients about the importance of dental visits and good oral hygiene during pregnancy. To promote this cause across the country, March of Dimes and Proctor & Gamble have partnered during Prematurity Awareness Month to provide information for patients and dental providers alike.

The best defense against pregnancy gingivitis and the complications it may cause are good oral hygiene and a visit to the dentist at least every 6 months, or as recommended by your dental provider. 

East Madison Dental is committed to being oral health leaders, and our hygienists and dentists are able to provide information on this issue and answer any questions you may have. Whether you are coming in for a visit, or just want to call to find out more, we are available to assist you.

You can also check out these great resources for more information on this important issue:

Oral Health Matters Especially During Pregnancy

DentalCare.Com’s Pregnancy and Oral Health Page