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If you're planning to become pregnant or suspect you're already
pregnant, it's important that you see a dentist right away. Pregnancy may cause
unexpected oral health changes due to hormones—particularly an increase in
estrogen and progesterone—which can exaggerate the way in which gum tissues
react to plaque. Research continues to show that overall health and oral health
coincide, so it's especially important for you to maintain good oral hygiene
throughout your pregnancy. Visiting your dentist will allow him or her to
assess your oral condition and map out a dental plan for the remainder of your
How does plaque build-up affect me?
When plaque isn't removed, it can cause gingivitis—red, swollen,
tender gums that are more likely to bleed. So-called "pregnancy gingivitis"
affects most pregnant women to some degree and generally begins to surface as early
as the second month of pregnancy. If you already have gingivitis, the condition
is likely to worsen during pregnancy. Untreated gingivitis can lead to
periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease that includes bone loss.
How does gingivitis affect my baby's health?
Research suggests a link between pre-term delivery, low
birthweight babies, and gingivitis. Excessive bacteria can enter the
bloodstream through your gums; the bacteria can travel to the uterus,
triggering the production of chemicals called prostaglandins, which are
suspected to induce premature labor.
How can I prevent gingivitis?
You can prevent gingivitis by keeping your teeth clean, especially
near the gumline. You should brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a
day and after each meal when possible. You also should floss each day. Good
nutrition keeps the oral cavity healthy and strong; in particular, you should
get plenty of vitamins C and B12. More frequent cleanings from the dentist also
will help control plaque and prevent gingivitis.
What are pregnancy tumors?
Pregnant women are at risk for developing pregnancy
tumors—inflammatory, non-cancerous growths that develop between the teeth or
when swollen gums become irritated. These localized growths or swellings are
believed to be related to excess plaque. Normally, the tumors are left alone
and will usually shrink on their own after the baby's birth; however, if a
tumor is uncomfortable and interferes with chewing, brushing, or other oral
hygiene procedures, your dentist may decide to remove it.
Are there any dental procedures I should avoid?
Routine exams and cleanings can be performed throughout pregnancy;
however, non-emergency procedures should only be performed during the second
trimester of pregnancy. Dental emergencies that create severe pain can be
treated during any trimester, but your obstetrician should be consulted during
any emergency that requires anesthesia or whenever medication is prescribed.
X-rays should only be taken for emergency situations. Lastly, elective and
cosmetic procedures should be postponed until after the baby's birth. Because
every woman is different, it's best to discuss and determine a treatment plan
with your dentist.
Reviewed: January 2012
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