April is Oral Health Month. During this month, you may see information about oral health for children, adults and seniors. But did you know that oral health is important during pregnancy as well?
There is a lot of information available about how a pregnant woman can take care of her body in order to ensure the best possible outcome for her unborn child. However, until recently, taking care of her mouth, teeth and gums during pregnancy was not given much attention.
Did you know that hormonal changes increase a woman’s risk for oral health problems during pregnancy? Poor oral health not only affects her health, but may also affect the health of her baby. Studies have shown a potential link between severe gum disease (periodontitis) in pregnant women and premature and low birth weight babies. Premature birth can put a baby at risk of death within his first month and lifelong health problems such as chronic lung disease.
Many women do not have the information they need – or have false information – about good oral health for themselves during pregnancy and during their baby’s first year.
Some common myths about oral health and pregnancy include that it is normal for women to lose a tooth for each pregnancy, that developing babies take calcium from mom’s teeth, and that some problems with teeth and gums during pregnancy is acceptable. This is not the case. Women with good oral health care during pregnancy are no more likely to get cavities or lose teeth during pregnancy than at any other time. However, pregnancy may worsen pre-existing oral health problems or problems that arise during pregnancy and are not treated.
Another common myth is that it isn’t safe for women to visit a dentist while they are pregnant. Routine cleanings and treatment are safe - and are recommended - for pregnant women. Further treatment for oral health problems can also be done safely during pregnancy. Pregnancy is not a time to avoid dental care.
After pregnancy, many mothers do not know that their own poor oral health may contribute to early cavities in their young children. Mothers are the most common source of transmission of cavity-causing bacteria to their babies. Babies are not born with the bacteria that cause cavities. Instead, they are “infected” sometime in their early life (through sharing spoons, soothers). Mothers that have healthy mouths are much more likely to have babies that are free from this cavity-causing bacteria.
Oral disease is preventable and treatable. Women can take these simple actions to protect their own and their baby’s health:
• Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and floss daily.
• Brush your tongue.
• Eat a healthy diet.
• Limit sugary foods.
• Make an appointment to see your dentist. Now, more than any other time, an exam of your teeth and gums is needed.
• Avoid sharing spoons, soothers, and other items between your mouth and your child’s mouth.
• Take your child for a dental visit by age one and regularly from then on.
By following these simple actions, women can help ensure that their baby is given the best opportunity to be healthy.
For more information go to the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute website at www.skprevention.ca