We’ve long extolled the importance of maintain proper gum health during pregnancy and now our claims have been backed up a new study which indicates that women with periodontal may be at a risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as giving birth to a pre-term or low-birth weight baby. Periodontal disease is a chronic, bacteria-induced, inflammatory condition that attacks the gum tissue and in more severe cases, the bone supporting the teeth. If left untreated, periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, can lead to tooth loss and has been associated with other systemic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. ‘Tenderness, redness, or swollen gums are a few indications of periodontal disease,’ Dr Nancy L. Newhouse, DDS, MS, President of the AAP and a practicing periodontist in Independence, Missouri, said.
‘Other symptoms include gums that bleed with toothbrushing or eating, gums that are pulling away from the teeth, bad breath, and loose teeth. These signs, especially during pregnancy, should not be ignored and may require treatment from a dental professional,’ she said. Several research studies have suggested that women with periodontal disease may be more likely to deliver babies prematurely or with low-birth weight than mothers with healthy gums.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), babies with a birth weight of less than 5.5 pounds may be at risk of long-term health problems such as delayed motor skills, social growth, or learning disabilities. Similar complications are true for babies born at least three weeks earlier than its due date. Other issues associated with pre-term birth include respiratory problems, vision and hearing loss, or feeding and digestive problems.
The medical and dental communities concur that maintaining periodontal health is an important part of a healthy pregnancy. The findings are published in the Journal of Periodontology and Journal of Clinical Periodontology.
Pregnancy and Gum Disease
Pregnancy causes hormonal changes that can make your gums more sensitive to the bacteria in plaque. This manifests as swollen, red gums that bleed when they floss or brush – a condition known as pregnancy gingivitis.
Sometimes red swellings or lumps form on inflamed gum tissue along the gum line. These growths are calledpyogenic granuloma or pregnancy tumours. Don’t panic at the mention of the word ‘tumour’. They are harmless but may bleed and cause discomfort while eating and speaking.
Visiting your dentist is very important
It’s important to take good care of your gums during pregnancy. If you notice bleeding gums, see a dentist and get your gingivitis treated. If left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease wherein the surrounding bone and supporting structure of the teeth get infected and eventually destroyed.
Pregnancy tumours usually disappear on their own after pregnancy. But if they cause discomfort to you, your dentist may remove it under local anaesthesia. But they may redevelop in most of the pregnant women. You will also have to get them removed if they don’t disappear after you have your baby.
If neglected, your baby may bear the consequences
If your gum disease is not treated, your teeth are not the only ones at stake.When your gums bleed, bacteria from the mouth can get into your bloodstream and may affect the foetus. According to some studies, severe gum disease has been linked to preterm birth and low birth weight. Severe gum disease may also risk the life of your baby, says a study. But it’s rare. So, don’t be overly alarmed.
Prevention is the key
Gingivitis doesn’t happen overnight. So, practising good oral hygiene habits can help you enter and complete your pregnancy in good health. Brush at least twice a day, floss once a day and use an antimicrobial mouth rinse. Getting a professional dental cleaning before getting pregnant or during pregnancy would be more important than ever. These measures will also prevent or reduce the likelihood of developing a pregnancy tumour.