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Oral Health and Pregnancy

“Prevention is better than cure”, a very popular proverb applies in each and every aspects of our life. Pregnancy is a period when the phrase applies the most. Most of us are well aware of the precautions we need to take during pregnancy. One gets especially careful on food habits, exercises and other daily routines during this time. However, many of us miss the crucial oral hygiene of the mother. Only a fraction of us know the importance of oral hygiene during pregnancy. While one might be sensitive to go for any sort of dental treatments during pregnancy, following simple oral hygiene procedures will ensure that you are not at risk.

What is the Oral health risk associated with pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the body produces high level of hormones. The rise in hormones level cause many tissues of the body, including gums, to be very reactive. So in absence of proper cleaning or existing problem, gum diseases may aggravate and get worse. As a result one might develop a periodontal disease (disease of gums and bones surrounding the tooth). If left untreated this may even result into loss of your teeth.

Many expectant mothers develop a condition called “pregnancy gingivitis”. Due to the high reactivity of the gums, plaque accumulated around the tooth cause the gums to develop gingivitis quicker than usual. In some cases, one may also develop a large lump in between teeth, often known as “pregnancy tumor”. The best way to fight this is proper care of ones gums.

Morning sickness is common during pregnancy. Repeated intrusion of stomach acids into the mouth may slowly dissolve tooth enamel and cause gum irritation. Rinsing mouth after each sickness will lessen these effects.

Pregnant woman tends to eat often which may also cause dental problems. When these regular snacks are sweet, one may be at high risk of developing tooth decay or cavities. Here again rinsing and cleaning after each snack will help.

How the oral health affects the unborn baby?

While it may seem unrelated, keeping the mouth healthy is equally important for the baby’s fetal development. Recent studies suggest that gingivitis and severe periodontal infection during pregnancy may affect the health of the baby. Bacteria can enter bloodstream through the infected gums, travel to the uterus and trigger the production of prostaglandins, a secretion of the body that is believed to cause premature labor. So, bad oral hygiene may lead to early delivery of baby which may again lead to less healthier baby.

How to keep mouth healthy during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, teeth and gums need special attention. Regular brushing and flossing, eating a balanced diet and visiting the dentist regularly will help reduce dental problems that accompany pregnancy.

It is important to see the dentist during pregnancy to prevent dental problems. If one has gum disease before conceiving, it might get worse later on during pregnancy. So, it is advisable to see the dentist before planning for a baby.

What can the dentist do during pregnancy?

Procedures that don’t require local anesthetics and are not stressful can be carried out safely during pregnancy. This includes cleanings of teeth and gums that might cause small amount of bleeding. The primary goal of dental therapy during pregnancy should be to prevent discomfort, infection and tooth decay. If one has tooth decay, bleeding gums, or periodontal bone loss, the dentist can help to keep these problems under control during pregnancy.

Some Tips For Pregnant Woman:

  • If one needs to schedule an emergency visit, let the clinic know about the pregnancy. Discuss with the dentist any stresses, past miscarriages and drugs currently being taken.
  • It's best to schedule the dental visit during the fourth to sixth month of pregnancy. This is because the first three months of pregnancy are thought to be of greatest importance in your child's development. During the last trimester, stresses associated with dental visits can increase the incidence of prenatal complications.
  • Typically x-rays, dental anesthetics, pain medication and antibiotics should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • If dental x-ray is required, special apron should be used to protect mother and child from the radiation exposure.
  • Antibiotic like tetracycline if taken during pregnancy can cause permanent discoloration of the baby’s teeth. While some antibiotics are safe, they are prescribed only if needed.
  • Painkillers like aspirin and NSAIDs (Non-steroid Anti-inflammatory Drugs) should be avoided during pregnancy.

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