Special Care Of Oral Health Needed For Moms-To-Be & Unborn Babies

Posted on May 16, 2017 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

With pregnancy comes a long list of guidelines to ensure a healthy baby. From day one, pregnant women must monitor what they eat, drink and breathe as well as medications they should and should not take.

A growing number of obstetricians are adding a very important item to the mom-to-be list. For their patients who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, they are recommending a thorough periodontal examination to reveal signs of gum disease.

Periodontal (gum) disease bacteria is a potent threat to any individual, as research continues to show. It is the nation’s’ leading cause of adult tooth loss and has been linked to heart disease, stroke, some cancers, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and impotency.

Gum disease bacteria can be a destructive force far beyond the mouth. How?

It is felt that the infectious bacteria of gum disease can enter the bloodstream through tears in weakened gum tissues. Once bloodborne, oral bacteria can trigger inflammatory reactions that can be the catapult for a number of serious health problems, including those listed above.

For pregnant women, hormonal changes during pregnancy increase their risk for periodontal (gum) disease. This is why nearly half of pregnant women develop Pregnancy Gingivitis, a form of gum disease. Symptoms include swollen, tender gums that bleed easily when brushing.

Because of their susceptibility, the risk for full-blown periodontal disease is higher for moms-to-be, which extends to their unborn babies. As a matter of fact, nearly one-third of pregnant females will acquire periodontal disease because of their vulnerability to inflammation. Research has shown that gum disease increases the risk for pre-term delivery (prior to 37 weeks) and babies of low birth weight (less than 5.5 lbs.).

One study showed the preterm birth rate for women without gum disease to be approximately 11% compared to nearly 29% for pregnant women with moderate to severe periodontal disease. It has also been shown that gum disease increases the likelihood for late-term miscarriage and pre-eclampsia. When oral bacteria reach placental membranes via the bloodstream, inflammatory reactions can trigger 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. In one study, pregnant women who had higher blood levels of antibodies to oral bacteria also had higher incidences of preterm birth and babies of low birth weight. These elevated antibodies have been found in amniotic fluid and fetal cord blood samples of infants who were preterm or of low birth weight at birth.

When periodontal disease is present, however, successful treatment has shown to lower the risk of preterm births. A periodontal specialist is trained to treat all levels of disease in a way that is safe for pregnant women (as well as all patients).

Symptoms of gum disease include gums that bleed when brushing, swollen or tender gums, receded gums or gums that darken in color. If you have any of these symptoms (whether pregnant or not), you are urged to schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience by calling 828-274-9440. Gum disease will only worsen without treatment.

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