By Dr. John Luther, Chief Dental Officer of Delta Dental of Massachusetts
Moms-to-be often have many questions on how to ensure their unborn children get a healthy start on life such as: Am I eating right? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I exercising enough – or too much?
But one question that is usually overlooked, but is equally important is: Are my gums and teeth healthy?
Gingivitis (tender, swollen gums that bleed easily) is not uncommon among pregnant women because of elevated hormone levels. Dentists call this "pregnancy gingivitis." But moms-to-be who develop this condition may be seven times more likely to have a baby that’s born prematurely, which can result in increased health risks for the child such as developmental delays, lung and digestive problems, and vision and hearing loss.
To avoid complications from gingivitis, schedule an appointment to see your dentist if you are exhibiting any of the following warning signs of gum disease:
- A bad taste in the mouth
- Continual bad breath
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums that bleed while brushing
- Gums separating from teeth or loose teeth
- Pain while chewing
Ideally, moms-to-be should have their teeth examined and cleaned before they become pregnant. Regular check-ups with your dentist will reveal any warning signs early, when they’re easier to manage. No one wants to deal with added pain and stress – especially when it’s preventable.
Additionally, pregnant women should take extra care to brush twice a day for two minutes, and floss daily. It is also a good idea to use an antibacterial mouthwash after brushing and flossing to reduce bacteria in the mouth that might contribute to gingivitis.
Once the baby is born, schedule your child’s first visit to the dentist once his/her first teeth appear so the dentist can check your baby’s teeth and give you information on good nutrition and dental care for baby. That is one of the first steps to ensuring your child has a healthy smile today and for life.