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Importance of Oral Care During Pregnancy

Dentist, dental assistant and dental patient

A mother’s oral health status is a strong predictor of her children’s oral health status. Every pregnant woman should be screened for oral risks, counseled on proper oral hygiene, and referred for dental treatment when necessary

Oral health care in pregnancy is often avoided and misunderstood by patients and often by physicians. Research suggests that poor oral health during pregnancy can increase risk of gum disease. Left untreated, prenatal gum disease may impact the growth of a child and even lead to premature birth, poor pregnancy outcomes or miscarriage. Estimates suggest that up to 18 out of every 100 premature births may be triggered by periodontal disease, which is a chronic infection of the gums. Appropriate dental treatment for the expectant mother may reduce the risk of premature birth. 

Nearly 60 to 75% of pregnant women have gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease that occurs when the gums become red and swollen from inflammation that may be aggravated by changing hormones during pregnancy.If gingivitis is not treated, the bone that supports the teeth can be lost and the gums can become infected. Teeth with little bone support can become loose and may eventually have to be extracted.
Pregnant women often experience more severe cases of gum disease. Gum disease occurs when harmful bacteria accumulate in your mouth, which can permit bacteria to enter and spread throughout the body, potentially increasing the risk of pregnancy complications.

Why pregnant women are more susceptible to oral and dental problems?

Pregnant women undergo hormonal balance changes during pregnancy. Many tissues undergo certain changes because the placenta produces higher levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy. In this period, excessive sensitivity to irritations occurs in the gums. In pregnancy, gingivitis or pregnancy tumors, can be seen very often. Pregnancy gingivitis usually starts at the second month of gestation and reaches the highest level at the eighth month, and heals spontaneously after birth. 

Tooth Cavities during pregnancy and its effect on Child’s oral health

Pregnant women may also be at risk for cavities due to changes in behaviors, such as eating habits.  Women who have a lot of cavity-causing bacteria during pregnancy and after delivery could transmit these bacteria from their mouth to the mouth of their baby. Early contact with these bacteria and to other sugars, such as from frequent snacking or taking a bottle to bed, can lead to early childhood cavities and the need for extensive dental care at a young age.

Visit your dentist if you are planning to get pregnant

You are less likely to have dental problems during pregnancy if you already have good oral hygiene. Suggestions include:

  • Visit your dentist when you are planning to getting pregnant (before you conceive a baby).
  • Brush your teeth at least twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Floss between your teeth.
  • Avoid sugary and sticky snacks (even if you are craving them).
  • Eat a lot of row food like fruits and salads.
  • Include plenty of Vitamin C, Calcium and Vitamin B12 in your diet.
  • Be especially vigilant with your home care (brushing and flossing).
  • Schedule a dental appointment for after the baby is born.
  • Visit your dentist regularly.

If you are planning on getting pregnant, but you are also planning on having some elective dental procedures, see your dentist. It is more convenient to have elective procedures done before you conceive. If you require dental treatment during pregnancy, non-urgent procedures are often performed in the second trimester. 

Tell your dentist (and doctor) if you are pregnant. Routine dental care can be done any time during pregnancy. Any urgent procedure such as diagnostic radiography, periodontal treatment, restorations, and extractions are safe and are best performed during the second trimester. Xylitol and chlorhexidine may be used as adjuvant therapy for high-risk mothers in the early postpartum period to reduce transmission of cariogenic bacteria to their infants. Appropriate dental care and prevention during pregnancy may reduce poor prenatal outcomes and decrease infant caries.

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