Our editors tell you the importance of keeping it clean—your mouth, that is.
By now you probably know that gum diseases can lead to tooth loss and cardiovascular disease, but you might not have heard that oral infections can adversely affect your health even more so than usual while you’re expecting—or that you’re more prone to dental problems during this time.
According to a study led by Dr. Kim A. Boggess for the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine Publications Committee, a surprising 40 percent of pregnant woman have some form of oral infection. (Yikes!) Here’s what you need to know (and do) to keep your pearly whites sparkling.
Pregnancy gingivitis affects approximately half of pregnant women. Gingivitis is simply an infection that causes the gums to swell and bleed due to the buildup of plaque. Since “pink sink” (blood-tinged spit after brushing your teeth) is common during pregnancy, it can be hard to tell if what you’re experiencing is a normal hormone-related side effect or something more serious.
The best way to know for sure? Schedule a dental cleaning during your pregnancy.
Although your dentist will hold off on X-rays until after you deliver, a visit to your tooth doc while pregnant is both a completely safe and vital part of ensuring your overall prenatal health. While the general rule for professional cleanings is a visit every six months, your dentist might recommend more frequent appointments during your pregnancy if you have a history of gum disease or dental problems.
Untreated gingivitis can allow infection to spread beyond the gums and into the tissue and bone surrounding your teeth, resulting in periodontal disease. Dr. Boggess links periodontal infections to preterm birth, low birth weight, gestational diabetes and fetal loss. Sounds scary, but the good news is periodontal diseases are perfectly preventable and treatable.
In order to reduce your risk of oral infection, Dr. Boggess prescribes the age-old cure of exercise, a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight. And, of course, you should brush your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day (after every meal if possible) and floss regularly. If you experience any of the following ailments between your regularly scheduled appointments, give your dentist a call:
- Toothache or pain in your gums
- Significant bleeding and/ or swelling of the gums
- Any kind of growth in your mouth
Benign nodules on the gums commonly referred to as pregnancy tumors are not completely uncommon in the expecting crowd, and even though they sound scary, they are harmless and painless (although they can be slightly annoying). You should bring any growths to the attention of your doctor or dentist, but chances are very high that any pregnancy-related nodules will go away on their own after you deliver and never cause you a moment’s trouble.
[tip] Brush for two minutes twice a day to keep the dentist away!