At Slater Family Dental, our Aloha family dental care specialists want patients to understand the important role their oral health plays in their overall health. This link becomes especially important for expecting mothers. Most women understand the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle after becoming pregnant in order to protect not only her health but that of the baby as well. While eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise, and scheduling regular doctor visits all rank as fairly obvious examples of activities pregnant women should engage in, a recent study urges pregnant women not to overlook another aspect of their health – oral care.
According to researchers from both the European Federation of Periodontology and the American Academy of Periodontology, women who suffer from periodontal disease- commonly referred to as the gum diseases gingivitis and peridontitis- may have a higher risk of developing problems during their pregnancy, such as giving birth to a baby with low birth weight or delivering early.
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Peridontology.
Perils of Periodontal Disease
A chronic, bacteria-induced inflammatory condition, periodontal disease attacks healthy gum tissue, and when allowed to progress, the underlying bone structure that supports the teeth. When left untreated, periodontal disease ranks as the leading cause of adult tooth loss and has been linked with an increased risk of such systemic diseases as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Among the many symptoms associated with periodontal disease include swollen, red or tender gums, bleeding of the gums after brushing or flossing, bad breath, loose teeth, and gum recession from the base of the teeth. While these signs of periodontal disease should never be ignored, doing so during pregnancy can create additional risk to the long-term health of both mother and baby, according to the AAP.
Recent studies have found potential links between a woman’s periodontal health and an increased risk of pre-term birth and the delivery of babies with low birth weight. The healthier a woman’s oral health, the less likely she is to experience these pregnancy-related issues. Babies born at a weight of less than 5.5 pounds suffer an increased risk of developing such long-term health problems as learning disabilities, social anxiety, and delayed motor skills when compared to babies born at heavier weights. Similar complications can also arise for babies born a minimum of three weeks prior to their estimated due date. Additional issues associated with pre-term birth include digestive problems, hearing and vision loss, and respiratory problems.
Improving Oral Health
Both the dental and medical communities find themselves in agreement that maintaining and improving oral health should rank as a priority for all pregnant women. The AAP and the American Dental Association have both rated non-surgical periodontal therapy as safe during pregnancy, and can dramatically improve the oral health of pregnant women.
By regularly brushing and flossing and scheduling to see one of our Aloha family dental care specialists for a comprehensive periodontal examination before and during pregnancy, a woman’s risk of developing complications during her pregnancy lessens, stated the study’s authors.
It’s important that expectant mothers establish a dialogue with Dr. Slater about the state of their oral health during pregnancy and to monitor their oral health for any signs of periodontal disease. By taking steps to maintain their oral health, pregnant woman can not only help support their own health, but can also help to ensure the health and safety of their baby during pregnancy.