During pregnancy, the developing baby relies on the resources of the mother to grow. Moms-to-be focus on all manner of precautions- eating healthy, avoiding risky foods, and taking prenatal vitamins to ensure the well-being of their little one. The passing of nutrients from mother to baby occurs through the placenta, which is attached to the mother’s uterus.
Blood flows from the mother, through the uterus and placenta, to the umbilical cord and ultimately, the baby. The increase of blood flow is regulated by an influx of hormones whose levels change throughout pregnancy to ensure the development of the baby.
The ever changing hormonal environment not only affects blood flow. The human body is full of bacteria throughout the entire digestive tract, which begins with the mouth. There are good bacteria and bad bacteria that interact in complex networks called biofilms.
Biofilms exist in the mouth- you may know it by the more common term plaque. In a healthy state, the good bacteria of the mouth’s biofilm keep the bad bacteria levels in check, with the assistance of the immune system, good nutrition, and proper hygiene. The balance is delicate and ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria can be affected by all manner of things such as illness, stress, and genetics, to name a few.
Pregnancy and the extreme hormonal changes associated with it are one of the biggest stress factors to this delicate bacterial balance. The good bacteria can have their numbers decimated quickly, allowing the bad bacteria to overrun the biofilm colony and result in potential infection. This is very evident in the gum health of pregnant women.
Healthy gums do not bleed or hurt at all. So, the presence of ANY bleeding, swelling or pain in the gums indicates the presence of some form of gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to bone loss, mobile teeth, or even loss of teeth. In the pregnant woman, gum disease can have even more severe consequences. Because of the hormonal changes, gum disease can progress more rapidly. Gum disease can also be found in the pregnant woman who has had healthy gums her whole life.
Perhaps most alarming, the bad bacteria responsible for gum disease can travel from the infected mouth of the mother all the way through the blood-stream and reach the placenta. Gum disease and periodontal disease is a known co-factor for preterm and low birth weight babies. It has been stated in research that up to 25% of preterm births are associated with some sort of infection. Gum disease is one such infection.
Sounds super scary, right? It doesn’t have to be. When caught in the early to moderate stages, gum disease is very treatable. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, a thorough dental and gum tissue exam is one of the steps to a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. The dentist and hygienist will screen you for signs of gum disease and help establish a customized plan for you to achieve and maintain excellent gum health throughout pregnancy. Diligent care of your teeth at home is also extremely important to keep gum disease at bay.
Removing plaque from your mouth two times a day for a minimum of two minutes goes a long way in keeping those bad bacteria from winning the race. Flossing or using a WaterPik daily are also important to reach the spots you cannot get to with a toothbrush.
Dr. Randi Green and her hygienist Jyssica, have completed and continues to pursue extensive training at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies, the world-wide leading dental education center for aesthetics and treatment of TMJ/TMD. They both completed the Advanced Technologies in Dental Hygiene course and can offer cutting-edge and effective methods to help you achieve healthy gums. Through this training, Dr. Green and her team exhibit their commitment to excellence in education and practicing this passion and knowledge while caring for their patients.
Ready to take the next step? Call our dental office at (417) 887-5155 to make a reservation with the smile team.