This month for our Ask the Experts series, we’re gathering info on prenatal health. Today, Mark Schlesinger, DDS, a board certified periodontist by the American Board of Periodontology, talks about oral health during pregnancy, and specifically signs and prevention tips for gum disease. Dr. Schlesinger is in private practice at The Diamond-Schlesinger group in New York City where he is highly regarded by patients and colleagues for his expertise in the field of periodontics and laser dentistry and his commitment to incorporating the highest standard of technology into his patients’ care.
For quite some time now, the medical community has known about some important contributory factors to premature and low birth weight babies—smoking, alcohol use, and drug abuse, to name a few.
There are also some studies that hint at evidence of another risk factor—periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is an advanced form of gum disease. Pregnant women with untreated periodontal disease might be putting their unborn babies at risk. However, there is still more research that needs to be done to verify these findings.
Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection of the gums. The infection triggers a chronic inflammatory response by the body. Some of the hallmark signs include bleeding, swollen or puffy gums. The bacteria and the body’s immune system release all sorts of chemicals into the body that can have an impact on overall health. There are strong associations linking periodontal disease to heart disease and diabetes. The pregnancy links are not as strong but are still cause for concern, as are any infection in the body. The hormonal changes in a woman’s body can also have a non-threatening impact on the gums, so it is important to have the mouth evaluated to rule out a potentially harmful periodontal condition.
Periodontists are specialists, recognized by the American Dental Association, for the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. Women considering pregnancy, and pregnant mothers, are urged to seek a periodontal evaluation, preferably by a specialist since they have the highest level of training and often are able to pick up subtle cues about disease activity that can otherwise be easily missed by the untrained eye.
The bottom-line: there are many modifiable risk factors that can influence the health of a developing baby. We don’t fully understand how much of an impact gum disease may have, but we do know that periodontal disease can be easily detected and predictably treated with a variety of minimally invasive techniques. Get your gum disease treated so you and your baby have one less thing to worry about!
Tips for mothers-to-be
• Brush and floss regularly to discourage harmful bacterial plaque.
• Have your gum health checked by a periodontist, a specialist in treating gum disease.
• Don’t skip your routine dental cleaning appointments—they are important for your health!
• Seek gentle treatment options if available, such as laser therapy or deep cleanings, to take care of a more advanced oral health condition.
Signs and symptoms of gum disease
• Bad breath
• Puffy or reddish gums
• Gums that bleed easily while flossing or brushing
• Loose teeth