There are plenty of things that women are told to do (and not do) as soon as they get pregnant. But is brushing your teeth really an important one?
The answer is yes.
Brushing your teeth regularly is the start of good dental care. And good dental care is actually extremely important to keeping you and your baby healthy because it can stave off periodontal disease.
What is Periodontal Disease?
You may or may not have heard of ‘periodontal disease’ but chances are you’ve heard words like ‘gingivitis,’ ‘plaque,’ ‘tartar,’ and ‘decay.’ None of them are words that you want to hear from your dentist. But periodontal disease is worse.
Throughout the day your teeth and gums do a lot and they end up with a lot of food particles and bacteria on them. That’s totally normal, and it’s not a big deal if you then follow through with keeping your teeth clean. That means brushing them really well and removing all of that bacteria, which can be difficult since you can’t see it there.
When that bacteria is left in place it can start to infect the gums. If food particles aren’t cleared away they can grow additional bacteria and also cause infection in the gums. At this stage, however, there’s still plenty that can be done to improve your outlook. While the redness and swelling and even bleeding of your gums is painful and annoying it is also a good clue that your teeth are going in the wrong direction.
If you ignore this, however, the infection gets worse and the gums actually start to pull back away from the teeth, which actually causes the teeth to loosen, weaken, and even potentially fall out. That can be even more unnerving, uncomfortable, and unhealthy for you.
It turns out it’s also unhealthy for your baby.
Why it Matters to Your Baby
When you follow good dental care practices you’re actually improving your own health. Whether you know it or not, poor dental care can cause problems for more than just your teeth. Sure you could end up with cavities or even gum disease. But you could also end up with heart disease, cancer, and even diabetes.
And that’s just what it can do to you personally.
In pregnant women, those dental problems can lead to additional problems for your baby, including premature birth and all of the complications that can go along with it.
Premature infants are at higher risk for:
- cerebral palsy
- vision problems
- hearing problems
- behavioral problems
- dental problems
- psychological problems
- chronic health conditions
- and more
After everything you’ve done throughout your pregnancy to protect your baby don’t you want to make sure that you’re also doing something as simple as taking care of your teeth?
Risk Factors for Periodontal Disease
There are actually several different factors that put you at a higher risk of developing periodontal disease. Some of these include smoking, immuno-deficiencies, hereditary factors, medications, poor fillings, and crooked teeth, which you have varying levels of control over.
Unfortunately, there are several factors that could be related to your pregnancy as well. Such as stress and hormonal changes. That means not only is periodontal disease potentially harmful to your pregnancy, the risk of developing periodontal disease gets higher during your pregnancy.
This means it’s even more important than ever for you to do what you can to take care of your teeth and gums as part of the process of taking care of your baby.
What We Mean By ‘Proper Dental Care’
So, now that you know the dangers of poor oral health, what should you be doing to make sure that doesn’t happen to you and your little one? You should be following a regular regimen of care for your teeth and gums.
This starts with brushing your teeth two times a day with a flouride toothpaste for approximately 2 minutes each time. This gives you a good clean that removes most of the food particles and bacteria on your teeth and gums. But it can’t take care of everything.
The second step is flossing. Unfortunately, this is a step that a lot of people tend to miss or skip over, but flossing gets the food particles that are between your teeth. Something that’s hard to do with just a toothbrush. Flossing at least once per day is essential to good oral health.
Next, make and keep regular appointments with your dentist to get a better, deeper clean for your teeth. Your dentist can help you identify possible oral disease much earlier, and they can help you to treat those diseases as well. But without a dentist you may not realize that you have a problem until it’s far more serious and that’s when treatment becomes more difficult.
If you are diagnosed with an oral disease then seeing a dentist regularly and following the at-home care guidelines becomes even more important. You can improve your oral health after you’ve developed an oral disease, but it takes work to do. When it comes to your overall health and the health of your baby it’s essential.
What to Do Next
If you’re currently pregnant and looking for everything you can do to help improve your health and the health of your baby, the best thing to do is set up a dental appointment right away. Contact Periodontists Dr. Godat and Dr. King and the Periodontal Associates of Memphis team to do so.
Our team can help you schedule a dental cleaning and checkup that will allow us to identify potential areas of concern for your oral health. From there, we can work with you to create a treatment plan that will allow you to improve the outlook for yourself and your baby.
You want your baby to have the best start in life and that starts with taking care of yourself during your pregnancy. Proper oral care is one step in the right direction for you. Contact us to schedule an appointment for treatment.