How does oral health affect pregnancy?
November 29, 2022
There's a misconception that going to the dentist while pregnant can be harmful to the mother and her fetus. But the truth is that routine dental checkups and cleanings are necessary during this phase.
Pregnancy requires you to pay more attention to your oral and general health. Hormonal changes can make expectant mothers more susceptible to dental problems, such as gum disease and tooth decay.
Taking good care of your mouth is crucial for a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Let's talk about how different oral health conditions can affect pregnancies.
- Plaque buildup, gum disease, and pregnancy
Plaque buildup on teeth can irritate the gums. Increased hormonal levels can lead to pregnancy gingivitis or maternal periodontitis. And the body's ability to fight plaque buildup also weakens during pregnancy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60-75% of pregnant women experience gingivitis or early gum disease. When left untreated, gingivitis can progress, and severe cases can lead to tooth and bone loss.
While the effects of gum disease on pregnancy still require further studies, this only shows how important good oral hygiene habits are for expecting mothers.
- Untreated dental caries
According to research, a mother's oral health status can impact her child's mouth. Children born to mothers with high levels of untreated dental caries are more than 3 times more likely to experience higher levels of dental caries than children whose mothers had no untreated caries.
Expecting mothers can be more vulnerable to cavities because of changes in their eating habits, increased demineralization rate, and a rise in acid levels in their mouths, due partly to frequent vomiting.
Cavity-causing bacteria can be transmitted to their children. Early childhood cavities may also occur as children are exposed early to these bacteria and a sugary diet. This may also result in the need for extensive dental procedures at a young age.
- Gum disease and premature birth
Gum disease is also linked to premature birth. Research suggests that gum inflammation can reach the bloodstream and fetus and lead to preterm labor
Preterm or premature infants are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy or gestation. Several studies show that periodontitis is a significant risk factor in preterm birth. And that pregnant women with good oral health had lower chances of experiencing adverse pregnancy-related issues.
- Gum disease and low birth weight babies
Periodontal infections are also linked to low birth weight in babies. The causes behind it are similar to having a premature birth.
Low birth weight babies are those born under 2500g. And although they only comprise 6-7% of births, they make up for over 70% of neonatal deaths. Infections from the vagina are also linked to 50% of premature births.
In one study, the rate of low-birth-weight babies among mothers with periodontitis was significantly higher than those in the control group.
Avoiding dental problems during pregnancy
Food cravings, vomiting, and gum problems during pregnancy aren't easy to deal with. However, as research states, conceiving is one sign a woman is healthy. It shouldn't be deemed a disease.
Oral health problems can be avoided by boosting dental care habits. Being afraid or concerned about dental visits is natural as you don't know what to expect. That's why it's best to inform your dental team if you're planning to get pregnant, may be pregnant, or have already been confirmed pregnant.
They can adjust the schedule procedures if they're better performed after delivery. They can also offer expert advice if you're struggling with your oral hygiene routine.
Changes in the mouth and body as a woman becomes pregnant cannot be helped. But their negative effects on oral health and vice versa can be reduced.
For more information on dental care during pregnancy, book a consultation with our dentist here at Westwood Dental. Our staff is happy to help you find a convenient time.
Let's maintain good oral health for you and your child.