Protect Your Baby’s Health Before and After You Become Pregnant!
If you’re trying to get pregnant, one very smart thing to do is to make sure your gums are healthy. A recent study showed that, on average, women with gum disease took two months longer to conceive. By making sure that your teeth are clean and free from plaque before you become pregnant, you are more likely to bypass some of the oral health complications associated with pregnancy. Studies show that women with gum disease are more prone to having premature deliveries – at least three times more likely!
Early Pregnancy Concerns
As early as the second month of pregnancy, many women will start to notice changes in their gum tissue. The tissue may become red, and bleeding may occur when you are brushing your teeth. This condition is known as pregnancy gingivitis. It is believed that pregnancy-related rises in hormone levels contribute to the growth of the kind of bacteria that causes gingivitis. You may experience this as early as the second month of pregnancy. Consult with your dentist immediately to learn what you can do to keep your gums healthy. If the gingivitis worsens, it may become more serious gum disease – periodontitis. Periodontitis seems to have a close association with premature delivery.
Dry mouth (xerostomia) and its converse – excessive salivation – are two other conditions that can be triggered by pregnancy. Those experiencing excessive salivation will generally see the problem go away by the end of the first trimester. Drinking plenty of water and chewing sugarless gum are easy ways to address the dry mouth issue.
Second Trimester Vigilance Needed
The increased risk of pregnancy gingivitis continues through the second trimester and into the third. Another condition, sometimes called pregnancy tumors, more typically will begin during the second trimester. They are officially called pyogenic granulomas (not tumors), and they are non-cancerous growths on the gums. They can bleed easily, and they do warrant removal if they cause too much discomfort. However, even those that are removed often come back during the pregnancy. Time is the best cure – they usually go away on their own after the baby is born. As with pregnancy gingivitis, the best defense for these granulomas is being attentive to oral hygiene.
If you are beginning to develop pregnancy gingivitis, the best time to address the issue is during your second trimester. It’s a great precaution to go ahead and schedule a dental appointment for your second trimester as soon as you know you’re pregnant. That way, you and your dentist can work together to avoid more serious problems. See your dentist if you have an unusual growth on your gums; it’s best to let a dentist determine what the growth actually is.
Entering the Third Trimester
If you’re experiencing any gum inflammation in the third trimester, see your dentist as soon as possible and get the recommended treatment. Do not leave any type of dental problem, such as a broken tooth, untreated just because you’re in your third trimester. Let your dentist be the judge of whether and how to treat it most effectively for your health and that of your soon-to-be-born baby. It may be possible to perform some type of intermediate treatment and postpone the final treatment until after the baby is born.
It is true, in general, that x-rays should be avoided during pregnancy. However, if your dentist recommends them in order to assess or address a serious dental concern, follow that advice. Digital x-ray machines significantly reduce your radiation exposure. Check with your dentist about the type of equipment being used. Remember, a lead apron will be used to shield your baby. Because of your pregnancy, your dentist will try to minimize the number of x-rays taken.
Summing It Up
Be proactive about your oral health if you’re trying to get pregnant and during every trimester after you do become pregnant. Keep your teeth clean, and try to avoid frequent snacking on sweets that encourage bacterial growth. That is a great way to do all you can to avoid the oral health problems that are associated with pregnancy. A little bit of extra attention to oral hygiene can go a long way in preventing a premature delivery or a low birth weight baby. Talk to your dentist about your current oral hygiene practice and what positive changes you can make for the health of your baby.