The Importance Of Good Oral Hygiene During Pregnancy

Posted Tue, 02/15/2011 - 5:27pm by Fred Lee

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When a woman is expecting a baby, it is one of the most important periods in her life — not to mention one of the most stressful — because caring for another person changes everything.

In addition to attending to her own health, a mother must now be aware of what is best for her unborn baby. This includes proper nutrition, exercising, getting enough rest, and avoiding unhealthy lifestyle choices like smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol.

Now, health experts have added to that list good oral hygiene, not just for herself, but for the health and welfare of her baby, as well.

The Importance of Good Oral Hygiene

Teeth should last a lifetime, as the saying goes, but for numerous reasons, people find that taking care of their teeth and gums is not high on their priority list. Perhaps this is rooted in the misconception that dental caries are isolated incidents that has no impact beyond a cavity or two.

This is misguided thinking. Health experts are finding that our oral health may in fact be intimately tied to our overall health, in ways that can have serious ramifications not only on our quality of life, but on our very survival, as well.

Doctors are discovering that unhealthy teeth and gums can increase a person's risk for heart attack or stroke. Bad oral hygiene has also been cited as a contributing factor to problems with the lungs such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia.

Both heart and lung disease are leading causes of death in this country.

Dental Health and Pregnancy

Women who are expecting should also be aware that there is a growing body of evidence that indicates that their oral health can impact the health and welfare of their unborn child, sometimes compromising her ability to carry to term.

Research into the matter has revealed that pregnant women suffering from periodontal disease may be 7 times more likely to deliver preterm babies with low birth weights. Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the gums and other supporting tissue of the teeth.

A recent study found that women with periodontal disease affecting at least 30% of their mouth were 8 times more likely to deliver underweight or premature babies when compared to women with healthier teeth. Even women with lower levels of the condition were at risk.

Although it has not at this time been determined if poor oral health was the direct cause of the pregnancy problems, some scientists theorize that periodontal disease may trigger certain biological events that might induce labor, thereby increasing the risk for premature delivery.

Currently, researchers are studying the effects of intervention in order to determine what happens when periodontal disease during pregnancy is treated. Data for this trial is expected sometime next year.

What Women Should Do

For now, women who are planning on having children should keep the health of their teeth in mind. This would entail good oral health maintenance before becoming pregnant, including brushing, flossing, regular checkups, and periodontal screening.

Women who are already expecting should know that being pregnant should not deter them from seeking out dental care. According to the experts, the best time to receive periodontal treatment is during the second trimester.

Periodontal disease affects an estimated 75% of the adult population in this country. Left untreated, it can lead to pain, suffering, and the eventual loss of one's teeth. Now we are beginning to realize that the problems can reach far beyond our mouths.

If you are pregnant or planning on having a child, consult with your doctor or dentist about any health concerns you may have, including issues with your teeth. If there are any problems, your dentist should be informed in order to begin the proper regimen of care.

For more information about the importance of oral health and how it can impact on your pregnancy, speak with your doctor or dentist and visit the website for Women's Health.

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