Taking care of Oral Health during Pregnancy can reduce the risk of Premature Birth and Low Birth Weight

Jennifer E. Engen

by Dr. Mohender Narula
Pregnancy is a period when people tend to provide unsolicited advice, leaving would-be parents to be overwhelmed and sometimes unable to make the best decision for themselves. There is an unending list that pregnant moms must go through on a daily basis, ranging from the ideal diet, exercises, and sleeping postures. During this time, there is a lot of emphases put on health and well being. Most would-be moms are aware of the fact that taking care of health during pregnancy is important, not just for her but also for the baby. That means taking certain precautions and having regular check-ups with a doctor or nurse. Despite this, one of the most important aspects of health, dental care, is frequently overlooked.

Significance of oral health during pregnancy

With approximately 70 per cent of pregnant women experiencing gum problems, dental hygiene becomes a crucial element in determining the health of both the mother and the child. Pregnancy gingivitis has been linked to a number of systemic ailments, including gestational diabetes, heart and kidney disease, and others.

A report published by the University of Sydney highlights the impact Gingivitis can have on pregnant women. It mentions that oral infection can have systemic effects on the body. According to the research, treating gingivitis during pregnancy reduces the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight in newborns. This first-of-its-kind systematic review and meta-analysis, published recently in the Journal of Oral Health and Preventive Dentistry, evaluated whether the treatment of gingivitis in pregnant women influences pregnancy outcomes. Worldwide, 20 million newborns (15.5 per cent of all deliveries) are born with low birth weight (less than 2.5kg), and nearly 11 per cent of all live births are premature (before 37 weeks pregnant).

During pregnancy, increased hormone levels (oestrogen and progesterone) increase blood flow to the gum tissues, making them swollen and sensitive. Furthermore, 75 per cent of pregnant women find it difficult to clean or floss their teeth owing to the gag reflex, which causes enamel damage and poor breath. Tooth enamel erosion and loss of appetite are caused by acid creation from sweet and sour cravings, as well as continuous vomiting during pregnancy.
This hormonal discordance triggers gingivitis identified as bleeding on brushing or flossing, inflamed, painful and swollen gums. If neglected, pregnant gingivitis can lead to pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure), gum tissue ulcers, pregnancy granuloma, pregnancy tumours, loose teeth, dry mouth, and even dental erosions in mothers.
Surprisingly, pregnancy gingivitis can cause even more harm to the unborn child by increasing the odds of miscarriage, early delivery, and kids with low birth weight. Premature babies are also more likely to suffer from brain injuries, poor vision, hearing loss, and other developmental defects.

Avoiding pregnancy gingivitis

It is easy to avoid pregnancy gingivitis by practising good oral hygiene. Some tips that help:
1) Brush with an extra-soft toothbrush – Gums become sensitive during pregnancy and hence it is best to use an extra soft brush to clean the teeth.
2) Floss your teeth at least once a day – The dentist recommends flossing twice a day. The same rule applies to pregnant women as well. Flossing can help in removing gingivitis-causing plaque. Therefore, pregnant should make it a point to floss at least once a day to get all the plaque out.
3) Avoid sugary foods and beverages – Sticking to a well-balanced diet, and drinking an adequate amount of water, helps in pregnancy and for the better overall development of the baby in the womb. One should also try and consume food items that are rich in calcium, vitamin A, B, C, D, K and E. Along with this, for better oral health, try and avoid food and beverages that are loaded with sugar.
4) Use alcohol-free or salt rinses – Gargling with betadine can soothe inflamed gums and get rid of the bacteria in the mouth. It is recommended to use alcohol-free mouthwash or do salt rinses.
5) Teeth cleaning – Get teeth cleaning done during the second trimester of pregnancy and not later than that.

Pregnancy gingivitis is a preventable and easy to treat disease. The gums might need extra attention, however, proper care and regular visits to a dentist can keep the mother and child in perfect health throughout.

(The author is the Founder and Chairman, MyDentalPlan Healthcare Pvt. Ltd.. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)


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