Recently released recommendations by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have deemed dental x-rays and routine dental visits are safe for both mom and baby. According to their recent report, 40 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. have some form of periodontal disease such as gingivitis, cavities and periodontitis as a result of physical and biochemical changes during pregnancy.
At Dr. Langberg’s Southfield, MI dental practice, we take the body and oral health connection very seriously. Physiologic changes during pregnancy have a direct effect on teeth and oral tissues and even change the pH (acidity) of your saliva. Recent studies have shown a link between periodontal or gum disease in mothers and low birth weight and preterm birth or their kids. In addition, guided preventive services and behaviors and providing necessary treatment against gum disease and decay can greatly reduce the risk of transmitting cavity-causing bacteria to your unborn child. Interestingly, when babies are born their mouths have no indigenous bacteria, but within a couple of months their mouths are populated with the mother’s (not father’s) germs! Regarding low birth weight and premature births it appears when excessive bacteria enter mom’s bloodstream through her gums, it easily travels to her uterus. There it triggers a chemical called prostaglandin, which is believed to induce premature labor.
Besides keeping up with a regular dental hygiene routine that prevents gingivitis and cavities, pregnant women need to be aware that enamel erosion can also occur. Along with hormonal fluctuations, increased acid in the mouth due to morning sickness, increased heartburn or acid reflux is a common cause of this erosion that we routinely check at each dental appointment. After a bout with morning sickness, pregnant women need to neutralize this acid to prevent erosion. The best method is to rinse with a combination of 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. It is important not to brush before rinsing since abrasion of the brush against the acid softened enamel will cause accelerated erosion of your enamel.
Another problem we look out for is pregnancy tumors. It sounds very dramatic, but pregnancy tumors are inflammatory, non-cancerous growths that develop when gum tissue becomes inflamed. Generally, these benign growths are painless, purple or red in color, bleed easily but subside with proper oral hygiene after the baby’s birth. There are, however, times when a pregnancy tumor interferes with chewing, brushing or speaking and becomes uncomfortable. After an evaluation, we may decide that it should be removed.
Gingival enlargement is also a concern during pregnancy, even though it occurs less often than gingivitis and pregnancy tumors. It’s believed that gum overgrowth is an increased response to the bacteria in the mouth, and in extreme cases it can completely grow over the teeth.
For more information about the latest guidelines on dental health, contact my team and I at Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD, your Southfield Cosmetic and General dentist by calling 248-356-8790. Our goal is to guide and enable our patients to keep their pearly whites healthy throughout their pregnancy. No question is too small or issue too silly to be addressed when it comes to your dental health and the health of your new baby!
Thanks for reading,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD