Expectant Moms Need Healthy Gums

Healthy gums may mean a healthy baby.

Research has indicated that women with periodontal disease may be at risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such giving birth to a pre-term or low-birth weight baby, according to the American Academy of Periodontology and the European Federation of Periodontology.

Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth, according to the American Dental Association. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because gum disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it. Also referred to as periodontal disease, gum disease is caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on our teeth.

"Tenderness, redness or swollen gums are a few indications of periodontonal disease," said Dr. Nancy L. Newhouse, president of the AAP and a practicing periodontist. "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."

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 their due date. Other issues associated with pre-term birth include respiratory problems, vision and hearing loss or feeding and digestive problems.

The clinical recommendations released by the AAP and the EFP state that non-surgical periodontal therapy is safe for pregnant women and can result in improved periodontal health. Published concurrently in the Journal of Periodontology and Journal of Clinical Periodontology, the report provides guidelines for both dental and medical professionals to use in diagnosing and treating periodontal disease in pregnant women.

In addition, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently released a statement encouraging pregnant women to sustain their oral health and recommended regular dental cleanings during pregnancy.

"Routine brushing and flossing, and seeing a periodontist, dentist or dental hygienist for a comprehensive periodontal evaluation during pregnancy may decrease the chance of adverse pregnancy complications," says Dr. Newhouse. "It is important for expectant mothers to monitor their periodontal health and to have a conversation with their periodontist or dentist about the most appropriate care. By maintaining your periodontal health, you are not only supporting your overall health, but also helping to ensure a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.”

For more information on gum disease and to find tips for expectant moms, visit www.MouthHealthy.org and search the A-Z topics.

© 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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