Pregnant women have a long list of things to tend to for the health of their baby. Eating a healthy diet, taking vitamins, avoiding certain foods and medications, getting proper exercise and having regular visits with their OB-GYN are ways to ensure a healthy baby. However, an often overlooked component in the health of mom and baby is the mom’s oral health. Yet, it can play a significant role in a healthy pregnancy.
Pregnant women have elevated hormone levels that can cause greater vulnerability to gum disease. As a matter of fact, nearly half of pregnant women will experience a form of gum disease known as Pregnancy Gingivitis. Symptoms include swollen, red and tender gums that bleed while brushing.
It is estimated that about one-third of pregnant women have gum disease. Because pregnancy hormones make the gums more susceptible to inflammation, they are more susceptible to the potent bacteria of periodontal disease.
While the smile of the mother-to-be is at risk, oral bacteria can penetrate the bloodstream through tears in weakened gum tissues. This bacteria can trigger inflammation elsewhere in the body, including the placenta.
Studies have shown that gum disease increases the risk for preterm delivery (earlier than 37 weeks) and babies of low birth weight. Gum disease also increases the risk for poor obstetrical outcomes, late miscarriage and pre-eclampsia. Researchers have noted that the preterm birth rate for females without gum disease is approximately 11% compared to nearly 29% for women with moderate to severe gum disease.
The links between the oral health of the mother and babies prior to birth is becoming more profound as research continues. One study found that that blood from pregnant women who had higher levels of antibodies to oral bacteria also had higher incidences of preterm birth and low birth weight babies. These same elevated antibodies have been found in amniotic fluid and in fetal cord blood samples of infants delivered preterm or of low birth weight.
Studies also show that treating periodontal disease reduces the risk of preterm births, leading to a growing number of obstetricians who are advising pregnant patients to ensure their oral health is in good shape. Symptoms of gum disease include gums that bleed when brushing, tender gums or gums that are red in color rather than a healthy pink.
Please don’t delay treatment. Gum disease continues to worsen without treatment. In our office, periodontal therapy is safe for pregnant women as well as for all patients.
With a healthy mouth, both mom and baby can have an added advantage for a healthy beginning. Begin by calling 1-866-9-Smiles for a free consultation.