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Why Your Oral Health is More Important Than Ever During Pregnancy

If you’ve ever had a baby or you’re planning to, you might think that regular visits to your doctor and your OB/GYN are the only appointments that you have to make to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

The truth is, there’s more to it than that. Maintaining a healthy mouth and scheduling regular visits with your dentist could help in preventing a premature birth or a baby with a low birth weight.

What does my oral health have to do with my pregnancy?

In order to understand the connection, it’s important to realize that the tissue in the mouth is the same as the tissue in a vagina.

When pregnant, the body elevates hormone levels – specifically estrogen and progesterone – to make the blood vessels in the uterus larger so the fetus receives enough nutrition and oxygen. These hormones also put the immune system into hyper alert.

Because the tissue in the mouth is similar to vaginal tissue, the gum tissue responds the same way. There will be a larger blood supply and a hyper-alert immune response, which creates the perfect opportunity for gum, bone, or tooth infections to begin.

Since the gums swell with enlarged blood vessels, bacteria can hide easily in the pockets where toothbrushes can’t reach. Because the woman’s immune system is on hyper alert, her body will detect the bacteria as a foreign agent and over respond. This response is like a military surge, destroying everything in its path, including healthy gum and bone.

If left unchecked, more swelling will happen, which allows more bacteria to hide, causing an even more intense response from your immune system. The untreated infection of the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth can be damaged beyond repair.

Can infections in my mouth harm my baby?

It is critical that every mother-to-be is aware of how gum disease can be harmful to their pregnancy. Not only is it called the silent killer of teeth, it also means that harmful bacteria can make its way from your mouth to the placenta. This is thought to be a cause of preterm and low-birth-weight babies.

With that said, if you keep your teeth and gums spotless, you shouldn’t have any problems. Gentle brushing, flossing, and using a WaterPik keep the swelling down to a minimum because if there is no swelling, there is no immune response.

How can I make sure my gums and teeth are healthy during my pregnancy?

Your dentist and/or dental hygienist are your best defense against damaging infections.

The hygienist is your hygiene coach and will help you create a customized cleaning ritual that will fit your needs. The plan may include visiting your hygienist several times during your pregnancy.

If you’re looking for a team that wants the best for you and your baby, reach out to Dr. Andrea Stevens.

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