Pregnant Women – Take Special Care Of Oral Health

Posted on Apr 04, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Mothers-to-be have many guidelines to follow to ensure a healthy baby. They must monitor what they eat, drink and inhale  – not to mention the vast amount of medications they must cross off their list during pregnancy.

For those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, an important part of tending to an unborn baby’s health is gaining more attention. This is also why a growing number of obstetricians are recommending pregnant patients to a periodontist for a thorough oral examination to determine signs of gum disease.

The oral bacteria of periodontal (gum) disease is pretty potent stuff, as research continues to prove. Gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the U.S. and has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and arthritis.

For pregnant women, elevated hormones during pregnancy create greater risk for periodontal (gum) disease. This is the reason nearly 50% of pregnant women experience swollen, tender gums that bleed easily while brushing. This is a result Pregnancy Gingivitis, a form of gum disease. Because of their susceptibility, the risk for full-blown periodontal disease is higher for moms-to-be, which extends to their unborn baby.

About a third of pregnant females will acquire gum disease due to pregnancy hormones that make the gums more vulnerable to inflammation. However, studies show that oral bacteria can reach far beyond the mouth. Research has determined that gum disease heightens the risk for pre-term delivery (prior to 37 weeks) and babies of low birth weight.

One study showed the preterm birth rate for women without gum disease to be approximately 11% compared to almost 29% for pregnant women with moderate to severe periodontal disease. It has also been shown that gum disease increases the potential for late miscarriage and pre-eclampsia.

Apparently, the risk stems from the entry of gum disease bacteria into the bloodstream through diseased gums. When oral bacteria reaches placental membranes, it can trigger inflammation that can activate pre-eclampsia or early labor.

As research continues, the links between the oral health of moms-to-be and their unborn babies are becoming more profound. One study found pregnant females who had higher blood levels of antibodies to oral bacteria also had higher occurrences of preterm birth and low birth weight babies. These elevated antibodies have been found in amniotic fluid and fetal cord blood samples of infants who were preterm or born at low birth weight.

The good news? Successful treatment of periodontal disease helps to lower the risk of preterm births. As a periodontal specialist, I am trained to treat all levels of disease. If gum disease does exist, our periodontal therapy is safe for pregnant women (as well as all patients).

If your gum are tender or you are having symptoms of gum disease (gums that bleed when brushing, swollen or tender gums, or gums that deepen in color), arrange an appointment for a periodontal exam at your earliest convenience by calling 828-274-9440. Gum disease only worsens without treatment.

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