While pregnancy is an exciting time for expectant mothers, it can pose extra health challenges. This is especially true regarding dental health.
Because of hormonal changes that naturally occur during pregnancy, your teeth and gums are at higher risk for dental disease. These changes can increase cravings for carbohydrates, particularly sugar. Increased sugar consumption feeds bacteria found in dental plaque, which is most responsible for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
Hormonal changes can also make your gums more susceptible to infection. Conditions may be favorable for a form of gum disease called pregnancy gingivitis, which can begin as an infection in the surface layers of the gums. But like other forms of gum disease, pregnancy gingivitis can advance below the gum line and lead to serious health consequences.
Because of this "pregnancy effect" on your teeth and gums, there are some things to which you should pay heed while you're expecting. First and foremost, keep up a daily regimen of brushing and flossing to remove accumulated dental plaque. You should also control your sugar intake to minimize bacterial growth that can cause disease.
It's also important for you to continue regular dental visits during your pregnancy. Your dentist will monitor your dental health and initiate treatment if you begin to show signs of disease. Besides professional cleanings, your dentist may also prescribe antibacterial mouthrinses to combat bacteria.
As far as dental procedures, essential treatments like fillings, root canals or extractions are usually considered safe to perform during pregnancy. But elective treatments of a cosmetic nature are best postponed until after your baby's delivery.
One last tip: because of the higher risk of tooth decay or gum disease, be on the lookout for any abnormal signs in your mouth. This includes spots on the teeth, tooth pain or swollen, reddened or bleeding gums. If you see any of these signs, see your dentist as soon as possible.
Your teeth and gums are indeed at risk for disease during pregnancy. But daily hygiene, regular dental care and attention to signs of disease can help keep that danger at bay.
If you would like more information on prenatal dental care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Care During Pregnancy.”
Pregnancy is a very special and exciting time for expectant women and their families. At this time, many moms-to-be make careful choices to try and do what’s best for themselves and their babies. Wondering what’s the right way to take care of your oral health when you’re expecting? Here are answers to a few of the most common questions about dental care during pregnancy.
Q: Does pregnancy make a woman more susceptible to dental problems?
A: Yes. Pregnancy causes big changes in the levels of certain hormones, and these in turn have a powerful influence on your body. For example, many expectant moms experience food cravings and morning sickness at certain times. Changing hormone levels can also affect your oral health in various ways, including making your gums tender, swollen, and highly sensitive to the harmful bacteria in plaque.
Q: What are “pregnancy tumors” in the mouth?
A: These are benign (non-cancerous) overgrowths of tissue that sometimes develop on the gums during the second trimester. Often appearing between the teeth, these swollen reddish growths are thought to be caused by plaque bacteria. They sometimes go away on their own when pregnancy is over, but may be surgically removed if they don’t.
Q: Is it normal to have bleeding gums during pregnancy?
A: It’s not uncommon, but it does indicate that you need to pay careful attention to your oral hygiene at this time. Pregnancy hormones can cause the tiny blood vessels in your gums to become enlarged; when plaque bacteria are not effectively removed from the mouth, the gums may become inflamed and begin to bleed. This condition is often called “pregnancy gingivitis.” If left untreated, it can progress to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis. That’s one reason why regular brushing and flossing are so important during pregnancy — as are routine professional cleanings.
Q: Is it safe to have dental cleanings and checkups during pregnancy?
A: Yes; in fact, it’s a very good idea to have at least one. Studies have shown that women who receive dental treatment during pregnancy face no more risks to their developing babies than those who don’t. On the other hand, poor oral health is known to cause gum disease, and is also suspected of being linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes. Routine dental exams and professional cleanings can help you maintain good oral health and avoid many potential problems during this critical time.
Q: Should I postpone more complicated dental work until after I have a baby?
A: It depends. A study recently published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found it was safe for pregnant women to have routine procedures like fillings, root canals, and extractions, even if they require local anesthesia. So treatments that are essential to an expectant mother’s health shouldn’t be put off. However, if you’re planning to have cosmetic dental work, it might be best to err on the side of caution and wait until after your baby is born.
Have more questions about oral health during pregnancy? Contact our office or schedule a consultation — and be sure to let us know that you are pregnant, so we can make sure you get the extra attention you need. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Pregnancy and Oral Health.”
During Nancy O'Dell's interview with Dear Doctor magazine, the former co-anchor of Access Hollywood and new co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight could not resist her journalistic instincts to turn the tables so that she could learn more about a baby's oral health. Here are just some of the facts she learned from the publisher of Dear Doctor about childhood tooth decay, pacifier use and what the right age is for a child's first visit to the dentist.
Many moms-to-be and parents or caregivers of young children are surprised to learn that around age 1 is the ideal time to schedule a child's first visit to the dentist. This visit is crucial because it sets the stage for the child's oral health for the rest of his or her life. It can also be quite beneficial for the parents, too, as they can be reassured that there are no problems with development and that the child's teeth appear to be growing properly. And if by chance we identify any concerns, we will discuss them with you as well as any necessary treatment strategies.
Nancy also wanted to learn more about pacifiers — specifically, if it is a good idea for parents to encourage their use. Obviously, children are born with a natural instinct for sucking, so giving a child a pacifier seems totally harmless. Pacifiers definitely have some advantages; however, if used for too long — past the age of 18 months — they can cause long-term changes in the child's developing mouth (both the teeth and the jaws).
Another problem that parents and caregivers need to be aware of is baby bottle syndrome. This is a condition that develops in children who are perpetually sucking on a baby bottle filled with sugary fluids such as formula, fruit juices, cola or any liquids containing a large amount of sugar, honey or other sweeteners. It is important to note that a mother's own breast milk or cow's milk are good choices for feeding babies, as they both contain lactose, a natural sugar that is less likely to cause decay. However, if these liquids are placed in a bottle and a child is allowed to suck on it throughout the night, they, too, can promote tooth decay. The key is to feed your child properly while avoiding all-night feedings and liquids loaded with sugar.
To read the entire Dear Doctor magazine article on Nancy O'Dell as well as to learn more about a baby's oral health, continue reading “Nancy O'Dell — A life full of smiles.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination, listen to your concerns, answer your questions and discuss any necessary treatment options.
When it comes to sensitive gums during pregnancy, Nancy O'Dell, the former co-anchor of Access Hollywood and new co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight, can speak from her own experience. In an interview with Dear Doctor magazine, she described the gum sensitivity she developed when pregnant with her daughter, Ashby. She said her dentist diagnosed her with pregnancy gingivitis, a condition that occurs during pregnancy and is the result of hormonal changes that increases blood flow to the gums. And based on her own experiences, Nancy shares this advice with mothers-to-be: use a softer bristled toothbrush, a gentle flossing and brushing technique and mild salt water rinses.
Before we continue we must share one important fact: our goal here is not to scare mothers-to-be, but rather to educate them on some of the common, real-world conditions that can occur during pregnancy. This is why we urge all mothers-to-be to contact us to schedule an appointment for a thorough examination as soon as they know they are pregnant to determine if any special dental care is necessary.
Periodontal (gum) disease can impact anyone; however, during pregnancy the tiny blood vessels of the gum tissues can become dilated (widened) in response to the elevated hormone levels of which progesterone is one example. This, in turn, causes the gum tissues to become more susceptible to the effects of plaque bacteria and their toxins. The warning signs of periodontal disease and pregnancy gingivitis include: swelling, redness, bleeding and sensitivity of the gum tissues. It is quite common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy.
Early gum disease, if left untreated, can progress to destructive periodontitis, which causes inflammation and infection of the supporting structures of the teeth. This can result in the eventual loss of teeth — again, if left untreated. Furthermore, there have been a variety of studies that show a positive link between preterm delivery and the presence of gum disease. There has also been a link between an increased rate of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) and periodontal disease. Researchers feel this suggests that periodontal disease may cause stress to the blood vessels of the mother, placenta and fetus.
To learn more about this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Pregnancy and Oral Health.” And if you want to read the entire feature article on Nancy O'Dell, continue reading “Nancy O'Dell.”
A woman during pregnancy naturally pays close attention to her general health, instinctively knowing it affects her developing baby. Ironically, it's also common for a woman during pregnancy to neglect her dental health, due to new physical restraints and fatigue that make regular tasks more difficult and tiring.
But pregnancy is no time to drop your guard: due to hormonal changes, a woman is more susceptible to disease and tooth decay. This can lead to increased sensitivity and gum inflammation that may develop into what's known as pregnancy gingivitis. This is of great concern during pregnancy, as the oral bacteria responsible for gum disease can cross over from mother to baby through the placenta. This could cause an inflammatory response by the mother's body that might result in a preterm birth with a low birth weight for the baby.
There are some things you should do to maintain vigilance. First, you should schedule an appointment with us at the beginning of your pregnancy to discuss and prepare a dental care plan. We can advise you more fully about how pregnancy affects your dental health and what we can both do about it.
A healthy diet from the beginning and throughout pregnancy will provide your child with the nutritional building blocks for his or her developing teeth, which begin to form around the sixth week. You may also develop cravings for certain foods, especially sugary or starchy snacks, which increase your risk of tooth decay. If at all possible, try to limit your intake of these kinds of foods or substitute raw fruits, vegetables or dairy products instead.
Oral hygiene is critical during this time in your life. Daily gentle brushing with a soft bristle toothbrush and flossing will help reduce the level of bacteria that causes gum inflammation. And, if you do notice sensitivity, swelling or bleeding from the gums, you should visit us as soon as possible for examination and treatment. It's also very important during your pregnancy that you schedule regular cleaning appointments. Because of hormonal changes, it's common for gum inflammation to become exaggerated making you more vulnerable to bone loss.
Remember: caring for your oral health when you are pregnant is just as important for your baby as it is for you.
If you would like more information on the relationship between pregnancy and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Pregnancy and Oral Health.”