Naples, Florida – During pregnancy, there are many things for women to worry about concerning their health and the health of their unborn baby. But one aspect some women may be overlooking is their oral health.
“Taking proper care of your teeth and gums is essential during pregnancy,” says Naples dentist Dr. Tamara Robison. “Your oral health can directly impact the oral health of your unborn baby. Tooth buds begin to appear during the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy, which means even from the very beginning of your pregnancy, you are immediately impacting how your child’s teeth grow.”
There are several reasons why oral health care is so important during pregnancy. Perhaps the most important one is that recent studies have shown a link between gum disease during pregnancy and premature birth. More research is needed to discover exactly how gum disease can affect pregnancy, but one thing is clear, how a mother cares for her teeth can directly impact her baby.
During pregnancy, hormone fluctuations can cause swelling and inflammation of the gums. If this happens, bacteria can accumulate, which can then lead to gum disease. This is dangerous, because the bacteria from the periodontal disease can enter the mother’s bloodstream where it can be passed on to the baby. It can then cause serious infections in the baby.
“A common side effect of pregnancy can be gums that are red and swollen,” says Dr. Robison, who offers an extensive list of Naples pediatric dentistry services from her offices in Naples and Marco Island. “Gums can even bleed while brushing during pregnancy. While this can be common, women should never assume that there isn’t a problem or that they shouldn’t visit the dentist while pregnant. Regular check-ups should be maintained during a pregnancy to ensure that women avoid dangers that can accompany a poor oral hygiene routine.”
If women do not take proper care of their teeth during pregnancy, very serious side effects can occur that can potentially harm the baby. Not only can premature birth weight result from poor dental care during pregnancy, so can preeclampsia and low birth weight.
It is important to maintain proper oral health care prior to pregnancy. Visiting and establishing a relationship with a dentist before women become pregnant allows the dentist to know and treat any problems before they become serious. During pregnancy, the dentist will know if any issues that come up are ones to be taken seriously, or if they are consistent with the mother’s previous dental health. It is important to note that routine dental work can be done during pregnancy, so there is no reason for women to avoid the dentist while pregnant.
“Evidence that proves a mother’s poor dental hygiene can negatively affect the development of their baby’s teeth is also increasing,” says Robison. “Regular visits to the dentist and proper brushing and flossing is essential, but so is proper nutrition. As a dentist who counsels expectant mothers, I explain the need for maintaining a balanced diet and taking proper vitamins.”
There are also other issues that accompany pregnancy that, while normal, can also negatively impact a woman’s oral health. Morning sickness that results in vomiting can create an excess of acid that places mothers at risk for cavities.
“After vomiting, it’s common practice for people to immediately reach for their tooth brush,” says Dr. Robison, who has been a dentist for kids for almost two decades. “But this is when the enamel is at its softest because of the acid. Always wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. To clean the mouth right away, I advise my patients to rinse their mouth with a water and baking soda mixture. That will neutralize any lingering acids remaining in the mouth.”
Because expectant mothers eat more frequent meals, there are more opportunities for the residuals from food and drink to damage the teeth. It’s important to brush regularly and use a fluoride rinse to properly protect the teeth. It is also important for women to take proper vitamins to keep their teeth strong during pregnancy and promote the proper growth of their children’s teeth. Vitamins A, C, D, calcium and phosphorus are essential.
“My best advice to pregnant women is pretty straightforward and easy to follow,” says Dr. Robison. “For women who are otherwise healthy, I advise brushing and flossing regularly, using a fluoride rinse, taking proper vitamins and maintain their regular checkups with their dentist. For women who have a history or periodontal disease, or other oral health issues, it is even more important for them to maintain their regular dentist appointments during pregnancy. And I always advise that at the first sign of concern, women should immediately call their dentist.”
Women worry about so much during their pregnancies, but their oral health doesn’t have to be one of them. By taking a few proper precautions, pregnant women can ensure their health, along with the health of their unborn babies.
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