As if pregnant mothers don't have enough to worry about, they can now add oral hygiene to the list of potential concerns. Periodontal disease can affect women at any stage of life, but the effects can be more pronounced during pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones themselves can cause additional swelling and bleeding of the gums in an otherwise healthy mouth. While annoying, this isn't a problem for most women as long as they continue regular dental care. However, for a woman with gum disease this additional swelling and bleeding can exacerbate symptoms. The potential risk is that ongoing and untreated gum infections can pose a risk to the developing foetus.
In a perfect world good oral hygiene would be taken care of before a woman becomes pregnant. But let's assume routine cleaning appointments have been missed. In that case, a trip to the dentist is in order once a pregnancy is confirmed. New research indicates that untreated periodontal disease can lead to premature birth and low birth weight in an otherwise healthy infant. A dentist can identify the signs of periodontal disease and devise a treatment plan for the mother.
Many people consider dental check-ups to be more about serious decay or the simple cosmetics of tooth care. Dentists are looking for the discreet disease we can't always see on our own, because when left untreated gingivitis and its companion bacteria can wreck havoc on the body. Unchecked bacteria can decay, eventually even cause teeth to loosen and fall out. The bacteria can also find their way into a mother's bloodstream, ultimately affecting the growing foetus.
Gum disease caught in its earliest stages can be treated with a cleaning from a regular dentist, and even working to improve oral hygiene, through the use of toothpaste , mouthwash and floss, can make a big difference. More serious cases will be referred to a periodontist who specialises in the gums. A periodontist has more specialised tools and the expertise to treat inflammation that's occurring higher up in the gum line. If necessary, antibiotics can be used to treat a serious infection. While no one likes the idea of medication during pregnancy, dangerous bacteria must be treated in order to protect the growing baby.
Taking care of the teeth and gums is about more than having a pretty smile. For all women, but especially pregnant women, it's another step in ensuring the safety of one's developing child. Exercise, good nutrition, a proper night's sleep and a good cleaning from the dentist all go a long way in helping to promote a healthy pregnancy.
Richard is a freelance writer who has learnt the hard way that good oral health doesn’t happen by chance. He hopes all mothers to be take the advice above on hand to ensure the health of their little ones. He is @thefreshhealth on Twitter.