Pregnancy and Dental Health Concerns

If you're pregnant, there are things you should know when considering your oral health.

According to a study by Dr. Steven Offenbacher, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, a healthy mouth may help reduce the risk of premature birth and resulting infant complications.

"Our findings indicate that periodontal disease progression during pregnancy contributes to preterm deliveries and especially very preterm deliveries (less than 32 weeks) which places the baby at high risk for neonatal problems and disability," Dr. Offenbacher said.

Premature low birth weight is considered an adverse pregnancy outcome. Research shows that this can occur as a result of inflammation and infection in the mother's body, which can interfere with placental and fetal development and also trigger uterine contractions and cervical dilation leading to prematurity, according to a news release from the American Medical Association.

Because the body's hormone levels rise during pregnancy, many women develop gingivitis and experience increased sensitivity in their gums. Typically this occurs between the second and eighth months and may cause gums to bleed during brushing and to become tender, red and puffy. This is due to an increased level of progesterone.

Results from ongoing intervention studies, the news release said, may eventually prove that a dental examination and evaluation for possible periodontal treatment may be an important part of a woman's prenatal and pregnancy care.

To keep your mouth healthy, the American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque and flossing daily. For more information on caring for teeth and gums during pregnancy, visit "www.ada.org".

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

© American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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