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Will Gum Disease Harm Your Unborn Baby?

  • August 29, 2015

Is a baby on the way in your Holly, MI household? Expectant moms know that they have to take care of their bodies to help keep their child healthy and free from complications. If you are expecting a child, you might have started eating a little differently to give the proper nutrients to your baby. You make sure to take your vitamins every day, and you might start walking, swimming, stretching, or taking some exercise classes just for expectant moms. You may adjust your sleep habits to get more hours every night (though you can’t always help that!), and you try to lower stress as much as you can. You never miss doctor’s appointments because you want to keep track of your baby’s progress and health.

Even though some problems simply can’t be prevented by the most dedicated, healthy moms, we can guess that you’ve taken at least a few of these precautions. But what about going to the dentist? Have you made that a priority? Dr. Marie Hunter and Dr. Rand Hunter want to share some surprising news today about how dental care plays an important role in your pregnancy, too. By taking care of your mouth, you can prevent gum disease and possibly even protect your unborn child. Partners, pregnant mothers, and soon-to-be pregnant mothers, read on!

What is gum disease?

When health care professionals talk about gum disease, or periodontal disease, they’re normally talking about two different but often linked conditions. One is gingivitis (gingiva = gum tissues, -itis = inflammation). This is inflammation of the gums, the tissues that surround your teeth. It’s caused by a buildup of plaque and bacteria on your teeth, in between your teeth, and on your gums. Eventually (over one day or more without brushing or flossing), the bacteria begin to colonize and cause your gums to swell. This can also lead to bleeding when you brush or floss, which is really one of the only noticeable signs of gingivitis.

You may be surprised to find out that most people have or have had gingivitis at some point. (Dr. Marie talks about that in this video.) But have you ever gone without brushing and flossing for more than a day? Or have you ever slacked off on your dental hygiene at home or failed to see the dentist twice a year for checkups? Don’t be embarrassed – you’re not alone! But letting gingivitis go untreated can lead to more than nuisance swelling and bleeding in your gums.

If you don’t do anything about this mild form of gum disease, the inflammation may begin to take its toll on your bone, too. If the inflammation leads to infection, you may develop periodontitis, a disease of the bone attached to your tooth and gums.

You see, the body’s response to inflammation and infection is to fight it off. You know this if you’ve ever had a cold or the flu and developed a fever. The fever is your body’s response to infection to fight it off. Your gums have a similar immune response. But the collateral damage of fighting gum inflammation can be serious: it can create pockets in your gums, loosening your tooth sockets, and even break down your teeth and bones.

So how does this relate to me as a pregnant mom?

It’s clear that preventing gum disease is beneficial for everyone. After all, no one wants bleeding gums or missing teeth! So if you’re wondering what gum disease has to do with pregnant moms, here’s what studies have revealed.

Research shows that destructive gum disease (periodontitis) has a link to other diseases in your body, from diabetes to heart disease, heart infection, respiratory disease, stroke, and more. That’s because the bacteria from your oral infection can leak into your bloodstream.

Wow! That sounds dangerous, huh? Now put your unborn baby into the picture, and you can see how this can be a big problem. The Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine – just one of many studies on the topic – summarizes their findings:

“Research suggests that the bacteria that cause inflammation in the gums can actually get into the bloodstream and target the fetus, potentially leading to premature labor and low-birth-weight (PLBW) babies.”

So what can I do to prevent gum disease?

Do you want to protect your child? Here are some preventative measures you can take to keep both you and your baby safe:

  • Brush your teeth (and tongue) twice a day for at least two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste, and floss once a day.
  • Come to our office twice a year for preventive cleanings and exams. We’ll examine your gums and can clean away any bacteria and plaque that you can’t reach with brushing and flossing alone.
  • If you’re about to become pregnant, get all your dental care needs taken care of before you plan your pregnancy. Some treatments may not be recommended during pregnancy.
  • If we do detect gum disease, we can treat it with deep cleaning and other methods.

Make an Expectant Mother Appointment Today

If it’s been awhile since you’ve been to the dentist or if you suspect you might have gum disease, don’t put your health or your baby’s health at risk. Be safe, not sorry, and contact Holly Dental Care today! We’ll do whatever we can to protect your dental health and your child’s well-being.