At not time in life is oral health as important as it is during pregnancy. At Matthew Nawrocki DMD, MS, we have made it our mission to educate the public regarding oral health and current topics in dentistry. In today’s blog, we felt it necessary to discuss the oral health implications of pregnancy. If you have questions that remain unanswered, we encourage you to contact us any time electronically or call (904) 602-8396.
Should You Visit the Dentist During Pregnancy?
As you will read below, oral health during pregnancy can be more complicated than during other times in life. Many changes take place in the oral cavity during pregnancy and the health of both mother and child can be impacted by these changes. Traditionally the dentist was not part of the medical community that came together to treat a mother during pregnancy. Recent years have provided us with the knowledge that the dentist should be an essential part of that team. Now more and more physicians are becoming educated about the topics discussed below and actively including the dentist in pregnancy related care.
Research has shown that up to three quarters of women who are pregnant suffer from gum disease. Symptoms of gingivitis include, but are not limited to, reddened and swollen gum tissue, gums that bleed easily during brushing, softening of the gum tissue, and bad breath that continues even after brushing. Although there has been many different hypotheses regarding the cause of pregnancy-related gingivitis, the main culprit at this time appears to be hormonal. Hormonal changes create a different cellular response to foreign bodies. During pregnancy the immune system works in a different fashion and certain changes occur, which result in a prolonged immune response at the level of gum tissues.
In the absence of pregnancy, gingivitis is dangerous. It can eventually lead to periodontitis and tooth loss. In the presence of pregnancy, however, gingivitis can be much more problematic. Both mother and child can be in danger.
We cannot live without cellular signaling. This communication directs our bodies in nearly everything from metabolism to homeostasis. When gum disease is present during labor, the immune cell signaling changes dramatically. Some of these cell signals have been found to cause preterm labor. Although the exact mechanism is still unclear, good research has shown links.
Lower Birth Weight Children
Unfortunately this is another example of our lack of complete scientific knowledge regarding pregnancy. Several studies, however, have found a link between low birthweight children and a mother’s gum disease. The current consensus is that immune system cell signals lead to a lower blood flow to the placenta. The in utero child does not have the ability to obtain the necessary nutrients and as a result is born smaller than optimal.
Maternal Blood Pressure Dangers
Preeclampsia is a potentially fatal complication of pregnancy. The most dangerous aspect of this problem is hypertension. Research has shown a link between preeclampsia and gum disease in pregnant mothers.
If You are Pregnant or May Become Pregnant
Upon the inception of pregnancy, there are a multitude of factors to consider. Often the mothers oral health the dentist get thrown on the back burner. Alongside many other physician visits, we highly encourage any prospective mother to visit the dentist for a full evaluation. Research now points to the fact that once the first trimester is completed, adverse effects of gum disease are irreversible. This makes the initial consultation and treatment if necessary extremely important for the optimal health of the child.
Feel free to visit the American Dental Association’s website for more information regarding pregnancy and oral health!
If you have any unanswered questions, feel free to contact us any time electronically or call (904)282-1588.