During pregnancy, we pay so much attention to our health, being diligent about scheduling regular health check-ups, which must and does figure in every health-conscious gestational mother’s list monthly. But do we extend the same kind of attention to our teeth? Do we schedule our dentist visit with as much regularity and punctiliousness? It’s time, we do. The benefits are manifold and the fallout of not doing so can be alarming, as I recently encountered, during my second trimester in pregnancy.
The Onset of Dental Problems: Gum bleeding or Gingivitis or bleeding tender gums is considered the most common problem affecting 60-70% of women during pregnancy. The body is at its lowest ebb as far as the immune response is considered and the imbalance of estrogen and progesterone in the blood and changes in oral bacteria lead to oral health being severely compromised at this crucial juncture.
Fear & Misconceptions: Too many misconceptions and a generic ignorance about the safety and importance of dental treatment keep away too many expectant mothers away from the dental chair. So much so that this vital fact is often overlooked by obstetricians. So imperative it is to take an early stand on the issue and ensure early oral health care intervention right before pregnancy to throughout the birth of the child that it can lead to sustained and long-lasting implication on the oral health of the child.
Implications for the Baby: However, what I was caught totally unaware was the health implication of gum bleeding on the fetal health and weight of the baby. During a routine discussion with my dentist, what came out was alarming. Gingivitis and excessive bleeding can have serious consequences on the health and weight of the fetus in the womb. It can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, and other pregnancy complications.
Health Hazard: Gingivitis and excessive bleeding, if left unchecked, throughout the entire tenure of pregnancy may lead to periodontal disease or tooth loss. If untreated, dentists seriously warn it may aggravate oral infection that may reach your fetus in your womb through the bloodstream. In fact, one should not even wait for the next regular check but immediately schedule a visit with one’s doctor, at the earliest and bring it to his attention.
Dental Advise: The dentists on their part advise unbroken dental care throughout the pregnancy contrary to the public perception that routine dental activities should be deferred or shelved during pregnancy. In fact, they require extra care. X-rays and local anesthesia and some innocuous pain medications are relatively safe to administer even during advanced stages of pregnancy.
Dental Care: Of course, it goes without saying that one must be diligent about brushing properly twice a day and resorting to non-alcohol-free mouthwash or plain warm water with a teaspoon of salt, to rinse off the bacteria. For those suffering from nausea and severe morning sickness, they must take extra precaution by gargling one’s mouth with a baking soda and water mixture to prevent the breakdown of teeth enamel because of excess stomach acid.
Dental Caution: As a pre-emptive measure, it is best to keep your dentist in the loop and let him know that you are pregnant the moment you get a confirmation that you have conceived or even before when you are trying to conceive, so that he may then advise the best course of action, available to you, under the circumstance and steer away from risky or uncertain elective dental care procedures, like mercury amalgam fillings, for instance. Dentists believe in case of elective dental treatments, the second trimester is the ideal time to act when the initial uneasiness and hormonal changes are put to rest and before the onset of heaviness which may make the procedures uncomfortable. However, acute problems need to be and can be safely addressed throughout pregnancy for the best health of the mother and the fetus.