Things to know about Oral Care and Pregnancy

As overwhelming and exciting the new chapter to motherhood is, there are tons of precautions to be taken and kept in mind during the phase. You end up reading almost every “What to expect during pregnancy” book (twice), snowballing all kinds of related information in an attempt to learn as much as possible. There are various changes that you may observe during pregnancy and one of them being your oral health. A correlation between pregnancy and oral health is something you must’ve heard at some point, however there is also an inverse relationship to systemic health. So here is all that you need to know about oral health during pregnancy.

How will plaque affect my health?

Plaque is a thin film containing a mass of bacteria which adheres to the tooth surface. Improper brushing technique and irregular flossing are the pre-disposing factors leading to its formation. It just takes a mere seven days on an average for plaque to mature completely!

When plaque keeps building up, it leads to gingivitis (red, swollen gums with a tendency to bleed).

Similarly, pregnancy gingivitis affects pregnant women anytime from the second month. Pregnancy gingivitis is a pretty common occurrence affecting around 30% to 100% of all pregnant women. If left untreated, there are high chances of gingivitis leading to periodontitis-a severe exacerbated form of gingivitis.

Pregnancy tumors or pregnancy epulis occur in 0.2% to 10% of pregnancies especially in the second or third month. It is a localized enlargement of the gum, similar to a nodule and bleeds easily. However, this overgrowth of tissue is not cancerous in nature. Depending on its size and location, necessary treatment is undertaken. Although certain patients may not require any treatment as it may disappear on its own-if smaller in size.

Another important and noteworthy study proves the link between untreated periodontal disease and its effect on the weight of the infant. Researchers have established the fact that pregnant women with periodontal disease pose as a significant risk factor for preterm low birth weight babies (usually less than 2500grams or 5.5 pounds).

The main reason contributing to such a huge risk is the translocation of bacterial products formed as a result of periodontal infection lead to the increase in the levels of certain mediators known as prostaglandins. These mediators are normally involved in parturition(childbirth). But due to the sudden increase in its level, it may foster premature labour.

Xerostomia also known as dry mouth is a common problem faced by pregnant women. Almost 44% women complaint about dryness or reduced saliva in their mouth. The lack of saliva makes it difficult to wash away the debris in the mouth, thus enabling the build up of plaque, cavities, bad breath and gingivitis.

There is one common thing which remains constant, triggering all the above conditions-the upsurge and increase in the hormone levels (estrogen and progesterone) during pregnancy. Yes, your racing hormones are the main culprits behind inducing all these worrisome issues coupled with other factors such as poor oral hygiene and high sugar intake.

When should I see my dentist?

If you are planning to get pregnant, then I recommend you visit a dentist right away.

If you are pregnant, in that case it is prerequisite to get a thorough checkup and treatment for any underlying condition during the second trimester. However, elective procedures that can be postponed until after the gestation should be delayed till then. You can still get scaling done in the first trimester, no other treatment is advised during that period though.

Reinforce a routine of regular oral health maintenance which should include brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, reducing intake of sugary foods and of-course dental checkups.

Keep yourself hydrated and eat plenty of nutritious food high in vitamin C and B12  which are essential to keep the oral cavity healthy. Regular and proper dental care is the key to good oral health and overall well-being for yourself and your baby.

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