Congratulations of your pregnancy! You have been told over and over to take your prenatal vitamins including folate prior to conceiving. But has anyone advised you about your dental hygiene? Periodontal disease, also known as “gum disease” can result in tooth decay and loss. It is a bacteria-induced, inflammatory condition, attacking the gum tissue. In more severe cases, it can attack the bones that support the teeth. Periodontal disease has also been linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
When you are expecting a baby, optimal periodontal health is not only important for you but also for your unborn child. Due to the increase in the level of progesterone during pregnancy, specific gingivitis-causing bacteria grow more rapidly, thus making the mother’s gum tissue more sensitive.
Studies conducted by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) and the European Federation of Periodontology show that pregnant women with gum disease may be at risk for giving birth to a low-birth weight baby or a premature baby. As you know, approximately 11% of babies in the United States are born prematurely. These beautiful infants are at greater risk of developing learning disabilities, delayed motor skills and delayed speech.
“In a case-control study of 124 pregnant or postpartum mothers, periodontal disease was demonstrated to be a risk factor for delivering preterm low-birth-weight infants. The causal relationship has not been established,” (Periodontal infection as a possible risk factor for preterm low birth weight. Offenbacher S, Katz V, Fertik G, Collins J, Boyd D, Maynor G, McKaig R, Beck J.)
“Nonetheless, the maintenance of maternal oral health is important because Streptococcus mutans, an important etiologic agent in dental caries, is transmitted from mothers to infants,” (Immunobiology of dental caries: microbial aspects and local immunity. McGhee JR, Michalek SM – Biology, immunology, and cariogenicity of Streptococcus mutans. Hamada S, Slade HD.)
According to the AAP, symptoms for gum disease include tenderness, redness and swollen gums. Other signs are bleeding gums during eating and tooth brushing, along with consistent bad breath and loose teeth.
Both medical and dental experts stress the importance of maintaining optimal periodontal health. Furthermore, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend pregnant women receive regular dental cleanings during pregnancy.
The most effective methods for preventing gum disease is regularly brushing and flossing teeth, along with seeing a dental professional for a complete periodontal evaluation during pregnancy. (Journal of American Dental Assoc, July 2001.)
Therefore in addition to taking your folate at least a month prior to planning your pregnancy, you should also pay a visit to your dentist or hygienist for an evaluation and cleaning.
As I have consistently written in other blogs, the key to living a healthy life is by conducting actions that make SENSE. This approach will reduce chronic inflammation and hopefully provide a healthy signal for important genes to turn on or off. Live the SENSE model of life and help keep the doctor away!
Sleep helps the body to combat diseases. Insomnia often aggravates stress and negative emotions.
Exercise and weight management can reduce our risk for heart disease and diabetes. From cardiovascular to yoga, exercise is paramount.
Nutrition is a significant environmental factor. It is recommended to consume foods such as green vegetables like peas and broccoli. Load your diet with nuts, fruits and vegetables!
Stress-reduction – Take some time to relax and unwind. High levels of stress are never beneficial.
Positive Emotions – Positive thinking and changing our perception provides healing. This is also self-preserving!
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualifies health provider before making any health, medical or other decisions based upon the data contained herein. Information provided is for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professionals.