The Importance of Gum Health During Pregnancy: What Moms-to-Be Need to Know
Gum Disease & Pregnancy: Risks and Solutions
The developing baby relies on the mother's resources during pregnancy to grow. Moms-to-be focus on all precautions- eating healthy, avoiding risky foods, and taking prenatal vitamins to ensure the well-being of their little ones. The passing of nutrients from mother to baby occurs through the placenta, which is attached to the mother's uterus.
The Importance of Maternal Nutrition and Blood Flow for Baby's Growth
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 baby's development.
The Impact of Pregnancy Hormones on Oral Health
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 harmful 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 harmful bacteria levels in check, with the assistance of the immune system, good nutrition, and proper hygiene. The balance is delicate, and the ratio of good to harmful bacteria can be affected by all manner of things, such as illness, stress, and genetics, to name a few.
Pregnancy and its extreme hormonal changes are the most significant stress factors to this delicate bacterial balance. The good bacteria can have their numbers decimated quickly, allowing the harmful bacteria to overrun the biofilm colony and result in potential infection. This change is very evident in the gum health of pregnant women.
The Risks and Treatment of Gum Disease During Pregnancy
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 pregnant women, 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 pregnant women who have had healthy gums their whole life.
Perhaps most alarming, the harmful bacteria responsible for gum disease can travel from the infected mouth of the mother through the bloodstream and reach the placenta. Gum disease and periodontal disease are a known co-factor for preterm and low birth weight babies.
Research has stated that up to 25% of preterm births are associated with some infection. Gum disease is one such infection.
Sounds super scary, right? It doesn't have to be. Gum disease is very treatable when caught in the early to moderate stages. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, thorough dental and gum tissue exams are 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 to achieve and maintain excellent gum health throughout pregnancy. Diligent care of your teeth at home is also critical to avoid gum disease.
Removing plaque from your mouth two times a day for a minimum of two minutes goes a long way in keeping those harmful bacteria from winning the race. Flossing or using a WaterPik daily is essential to reach the spots you cannot get to with a toothbrush.
Dr. Randi Green and her hygienists have completed and continue to pursue extensive training at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies, the leading worldwide dental education center for aesthetics and treatment of TMJ/TMD. They completed the Advanced Technologies in Dental Hygiene course and offer cutting-edge and effective methods to help you achieve healthy gums.
Through this training, Dr. Green and her team are committed 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.