Healthy Gums Important For Moms-To-Be

Posted on Oct 10, 2017 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

If you followed any of the AMC network’s seven seasons of “Mad Men,” you likely watched episodes where the pregnant wives were not only drinking cocktails, but smoking cigarettes. This is shocking today. Yet in the 1960’s, the decade in which the series took place, it was fairly commonplace.

Times have changed. Today, we not only know about the hazards of smoking and alcohol for adults in general, we know that whatever a mom-to-be consumes can pass through to her unborn baby. Being pregnant in this decade comes with a long list of what to avoid during pregnancy. This includes dietary restrictions, medications, fumes, and especially smoking and alcohol.

We now have greater awareness when it comes to what may be potentially harmful to a developing fetus. An often overlooked hazard for its potential harm to unborn babies is that of periodontal (gum) disease. Fortunately, a growing awareness among the medical field is cautioning pregnant females to keep their gums in healthy shape for the good of their smile and their baby.

For years now, studies have shown that women with periodontal (gum) disease are at higher risk for pre-term babies or low-birth weight babies (babies born with a birth weight of less than 5.5 lbs.). Babies born under these circumstances are at greater risk for long-term health problems, including delayed motor skills, social development and learning disabilities. Additionally, a baby born 3 weeks or more prior to its due date can have similar complications in addition to respiratory problems, vision and hearing loss and digestive problems.

Periodontal disease is an inflammatory condition, resulting from an overload of bacterial accumulation in the mouth. This infectious bacteria can attack gum tissues and the bone structure that supports teeth. Like many diseases in our bodies, gum disease begins without obvious warning signs. Once symptoms emerge, they include tender gums, swollen gums, gums that bleed when brushing, gums that pull away from teeth, persistent bad breath and teeth that become loose. While these signs should create a sense of urgency for anyone who experiences them, responding to them is especially important during pregnancy.

Gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss and is linked to other serious diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), medical and dental communities agree that maintaining good periodontal health during pregnancy is important. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, stay current on your dental check-ups and cleanings. Also, be committed to a thorough at-home oral hygiene regimen. This includes twice-daily brushing, daily flossing, and regular dental check-ups.

This is also supported by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who now encourage pregnant women to achieve and maintain good oral health. In addition to regular dental cleanings during pregnancy, watch for signs of gum disease since hormonal levels during pregnancy make you more susceptible to gum problems, including Pregnancy Gingivitis (which are similar to gum disease symptoms). If signs of gum disease are present, non-surgical periodontal therapy is safe for pregnant women and can improve gum health.

Through all phases of your pregnancy, make oral hygiene a priority. If you are behind on dental check-ups, seeing a Periodontal specialist can help to reduce your risk for adverse pregnancy complications. This will also help to reduce your own risk for health problems while you support a safe pregnancy and healthy baby.

Gum disease can trigger systemic inflammation in the body, resulting in a higher risk for serious health problems. In addition to pre-term, low birth weight babies, these include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, arthritis, diabetes and impotency.

To learn more about gum health as it relates to pregnancy, visit the web site of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP).

To schedule an examination, call 828-274-9440.

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