Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry and written by Dr. Anita Gouri.
Oral Health During Pregnancy—Why It’s Important for You and Your Baby.
Every parent who is expecting wants to know how best to ensure a healthy start to life for their baby. Many do not realize that good oral health plays a vital role in both a healthy pregnancy and a healthy mouth for their baby.
During pregnancy, changes in hormones and estrogen levels have been associated with a risk for increased inflammation in the gum tissue, also known as gingivitis. Inflamed gums are tender, swollen, and often bleed, making you more vulnerable to plaque accumulation. Luckily, pregnancy gingivitis is reversible with through brushing, flossing, and routine visits to the dentist. If not kept in check, however, gingivitis can worsen to periodontitis, which is irreversible and starts to affect the quality of the bone around the teeth. Advanced gum disease presents with high levels of harmful bacteria in deep pockets around the teeth that are very hard to clean without specialized treatment.
Studies show an association between periodontitis and adverse pregnancy outcomes like preterm labor, preeclampsia, and low birth weight. The correlation is not definitive, and more research needs to be done, but it is hypothesized that the harmful bacteria found in the gums travel in the bloodstream and influence inflammatory mediators released by your body at the onset of labor.
Fortunately, gingivitis is easily preventable with meticulous oral hygiene and routine dental checkups. Due to higher vulnerability to plaque and bacteria during pregnancy, more brushing and flossing on a daily basis helps fight the heightened inflammation of the gums better.
Pregnancy and Dental Caries
When you are “eating for two,” dietary habits often change. I certainly had a serious sweet tooth during my second pregnancy! Increased snacking coupled with increased vulnerability to plaque accumulation makes your teeth more susceptible to decay. Streptococcus mutans, which is part of your normal oral flora, is the primary culprit for cavity formation. Heavy amounts of this bacteria are found in dental plaque and cavities, and can easily be transferred to our newborns’ mouths during the first few months of life. Studies show that children born to mothers who have high levels of untreated cavities or tooth loss are more than 3 times more likely to have cavities as a child.
Just remember to regularly brush 2-3 times a day with fluoridated toothpaste, floss 1-2 times a day, and to have all untreated cavities restored before the birth of your baby (and preferably before pregnancy). It is safest for pregnant mothers to have dental treatment during their second trimester.
Other tips on oral health during pregnancy
- Heartburn and morning sickness often associated with pregnancy expose the teeth to frequent acid attacks. In order to protect the enamel, a quick rinse with water containing a teaspoon of baking soda can help neutralize the acid and help your mouth recover. It’s also imperative to remember to avoid acidic drinks like sodas, carbonated beverages, and juices on a routine basis.
- Xylitol is a natural sugar substitute that cavity-causing bacteria cannot metabolize, making it harder for plaque to form in the mouth. For this reason, chewing gum containing xylitol is recommended for expecting mothers. It’s also a good idea to chew xylitol gum during the first few months after the baby is born as well, to help reduce the passage of cavity-causing bacteria to your child.
- 44% of pregnant women experience xerostomia, or dry mouth. Reduced salivary flow means a reduced protective and cleansing effect from the saliva. Hydration and chewing xylitol gum, which helps stimulate saliva production, help keep the dryness to a minimum.
Fortunately most pregnancy-induced oral changes are easily treatable, and worsening of these changes is easily preventable. Brushing 2-3 times a day with fluoridated tooth paste and flossing 1-2 times a day remain the most effective method for plaque and bacteria removal. Dentists constantly tell you to brush and floss for a reason—it really is the simplest way to have a healthy mouth for life, and to help ensure your baby does too!
Do you have additional questions? Call us anytime if you’d like more information! 337-981-9242 x1
Dr. Anita Gouri, a pediatric dentist, has been practicing in Lafayette for 10 years and is the owner of Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry. She graduated from LSU School of Dentistry in 2006, receiving honors including Outstanding Achievement in Pediatric Dentistry, Honors in Research, and the Carl A. Baldridge Academic Scholarship. She completed her residency in pediatric dentistry at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC in 2008 and became a board certified diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry in 2009. In 2010, her research on dental pain assessment was published in Pediatric Dentistry. She also has specialized training in treating babies and children who have tongue and lip ties. She is a member of the Academy of Laser Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the Louisiana Dental Association, the Southwestern Society of Pediatric Dentistry, American Dental Association, as well as the C. Edmund Kells and Omicron Kappa Upsilon Dental Honor Societies. Dr. Gouri, her husband, and their two children enjoy travel, Saints football, good food and good friends.