If you are expecting a baby or would like to be soon, visit your family dental center as part of your efforts to be a healthy mom and have a healthy baby.
Even before you're expecting, maintaining or improving your oral health is an important part of a healthier you, so that you can be a healthy mom. Also, since x-rays, anesthetic and some healthcare procedures should be limited for expectant moms, it's best to take care of these as needed before you are pregnant, if you have the opportunity.
If you're expecting a baby, prenatal dental visits help keep mom healthy. Prenatal dental visits also help establish good healthy development for baby, and can even help avoid preterm birth or low birth weight babies.
Prenatal dental visits help a pregnant woman avoid decay-causing bacteria that can be transmitted to her child. It is critical to have maternal teeth free of decay before the birth to avoid transmitting the same bacteria to the unborn baby.
This tooth decay-causing bacteria is very common. "Medical research shows that more than 40% of women of reproductive age are affected by periodontal or gum disease," says Dr. Christine Haag, dentist with First Choice Dental.
Preventing decay-causing bacteria for mom and baby is only part of the reason for pregnant women to visit their dentist. "Pregnant women should add frequent dental visits to the list of health care needs during pregnancy, since research shows that there's a close link between gum disease and pre-term births or low birth weight babies," says Dr. Haag.
What's the connection between tooth decay, gum disease and preterm births or low birth-weights? Although there's a clear connection between periodontal disease and premature birth, there are differing views on the exact reasons for this connection.
One theory is that periodontal disease triggers increased levels of the biological fluids that induce labor. In other words, the "messengers" that are supposed to send the message that birth is to begin are produced elsewhere in the body and the message is sent prematurely. These regulators, which are called prostaglandins, can be produced by different diseases, including gum disease.
Another theory is that the same oral bacteria that causes gum disease in the mother is transferred directly into the uterus, causing inflammation and therefore possible preterm labor or preterm birth.
Whatever the connection between gum disease and preterm birth, pregnant mothers clearly need to maintain good oral hygiene throughout their pregnancy. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings during the second and third trimester to help avoid problems.
Regular trips to your family dental center should continue for new moms, as well. "Science has now shown that gum disease and dental decay are both transmissible through saliva. So it's important for new moms to maintain good oral health so that they don't transmit oral health issues to their infant or toddler," says Dr. Christine Haag.
Oral bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease can be transmitted through close contact between mom and baby. Kissing, putting a pacifier in your mouth and then giving it to your child, or using the same utensil to test baby food temperature, and then to feed your baby can transfer oral bacteria.
Oral bacteria can cause damage even before baby teeth erupt. The Journal of Dental Research indicates that most children become permanently colonized with the oral bacteria that can cause tooth decay between 18-36 months, but that it can be as early as three months.
A mom who is committed to maintaining good oral health, as well as making it a priority to schedule baby's first visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, can help to establish good oral health for your child from the start.