Importance of Oral Health During Pregnancy

Importance of Oral Health During Pregnancy

Many women avoid the dentist during pregnancy, often due to fears that dental treatment may have detrimental affects on the health and development of their unborn child. Many have also fallen prey to the very common misconception that dental problems are a normal part of pregnancy, one that they must just grin and bear until after their child is delivered. Unfortunately, these misconceptions have the potential to cause serious problems for mother and baby, since poor dental health can increase risk of pregnancy complications that can affect either or both of them.pregnancy and dental health

About Pregnancy And Oral Health

While the common belief that dental problems are inevitable during pregnancy – illustrated by the old wives’ tale that a woman can expect to lose a tooth for every baby – is a misconception, there are some common oral health issues that can arise. Hormonal changes can make pregnant women more prone to inflammation, bleeding and tenderness of the gums – a condition called gingivitis. Left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, a chronic gum infection that can cause tooth loss. Other issues for which women are at higher risk during pregnancy include benign growths in the mouth that typically appear during the first trimester and disappear on their own after delivery, and erosion of tooth enamel caused by vomiting with morning sickness, which can cause tooth decay.

About Pregnancy And Dental Care

That second misconception – that dental care is dangerous during pregnancy – is certainly just that. Routine dental care, including oral examinations and professional teeth cleanings, are perfectly safe for pregnant women and their unborn children. Not only is dental care safe, it is, along with careful attention to oral hygiene, so important to avoiding dental problems during pregnancy that many doctors feel it should be considered a vital component of standard prenatal care routines.

What if your dentist finds a problem – gum disease or cavities? Is it safe to treat these problems during pregnancy? A number of studies have been done to get a definitive answer to that question in recent years, and the consensus is that dental treatment is safe for both mother and child.

Among the latest of these studies is one published in The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), which compared pregnancy outcomes between women exposed to dental treatment with anesthetics during pregnancy and those who had no treatment. Results showed that exposure to dental care and local anesthesia during pregnancy is not associated with increased risk for major medical problems or birth defects in newborns, nor was it associated with pregnancy complications.

The Potential Consequences of Neglecting Oral Health During Pregnancy

Not only has dental care and treatment been shown to be safe, studies have shown it to be beneficial, since poor oral health is associated with increased risk of serious pregnancy complications. An article published by Aetna cites statistics gathered from a number of scientific studies. According to those studies, women with advanced periodontal disease are seven times more likely to deliver their babies prematurely than are women with good oral health, and seven times more likely to deliver a low birth weight baby. Studies have also linked dental problems to preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening complication.

So put those old wives’ tales to rest – you can do pregnancy without losing any of your teeth if you brush, floss and see your dentist regularly. Just be sure to let your dentist know you’re expecting, especially if you may need x-rays, which will require special precautions, or medications, to ensure that your dentist can make the safest drug choices for baby.

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