Women of Nashville: Pregnancy checklist should include a trip to the dentist

During pregnancy, a woman has many things to think about, from registering for baby items, to scheduling ultrasounds. But there is another item that should be added to the checklist prior to baby’s due date: A dental check-up.

Research has shown that good oral health during pregnancy protects not only the mother, but also the unborn baby. However, in 2007–2009, 35 percent of U.S. women reported that they did not have a dental visit within the past year and 56 percent of women did not visit a dentist at all during pregnancy.

Maternal oral health during pregnancy is absolutely critical, so our experts here at Belle Meade Family Dentistry are answering questions to share its importance with Nashville-area moms.

What happens in my mouth during pregnancy?

After becoming pregnant, a woman may experience changes in her oral health due to the surge in hormones, which can cause gum tissues to exaggerate a typical reaction to plaque. If plaque isn’t removed twice daily, it can harden into tartar and may increase the risk of gingivitis, a condition with symptoms of red, swollen and tender gums that are more likely to bleed. This "pregnancy gingivitis" affects most pregnant women and can surface as early as the second month. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease.

Excessive bacteria can enter the bloodstream through your gums. If this happens, the bacteria can travel to the uterus, triggering the production of chemicals called prostaglandins, which have shown in a study* to possibly induce preterm birth. Though further research is needed, we do know preventive dental care during pregnancy improves oral health and overall health and is safe for both mom and baby.

Should I avoid dental procedures while pregnant?

Elective procedures that can wait until the postpartum period should be delayed until after the baby is born, but women with dental emergencies can be treated at any time. The American Dental Association does recommend avoiding routine x-rays during pregnancy though.

How can I prevent issues?

To prevent oral health issues during pregnancy, women should brush and floss regularly and eat a healthy balanced diet.

Pregnancy is a wonderful time of life. If you notice any changes in your oral health during pregnancy, please let our dentists know by scheduling an appointment.

Your oral health is an important part of your overall health and good dental hygiene will not only prevent oral problems during pregnancy, but will also ensure a healthy start to your baby’s life.

For more information on prenatal oral care, or to make an appointment, call Nashville’s own Belle Meade Family Dentistry at (615) 298-2030. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

* Periodontal infection and preterm birth: results of a prospective study, 2001 Journal of American Dental Association, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11480640

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