HOW CAN GUM DISEASE AFFECT MY BABY?

Pregnancy and Your Oral Health

Congratulations on your pregnancy!  While it’s important to eat healthy and exercise appropriately, you also need to take good care of your teeth and gums.  Sccientists have recently learned that your oral health may affect your baby’s birth-weight.

 

Thanks to an important study by researchers at the University of North Carolina, scientists have found a connection between a serious gum disease, called periodontitis, and pregnant women whose babies were born too early or at a low weight.

What Is Periodontitis?

Periodontitis is a bacterial gum infection that can lead to the destruction of the bone and fibers that support your teeth.  It can usually be easily treated when discovered early.  Signs of periodontitis may include tenderness, bleeding, swelling of the gums or loose teeth.  You may, however, have no signs at all.  Only a dental professional can tell for sure, so it is important to see a dentist regularly.

How Can Periodontitis Affect My Baby?

As in other infections, when you have periodontitis, your body tries to fight it to stay healthy.  Scientists believe that this fight produces byproducts and chemicals that can travel through your blood stream into other parts of your body.  If these chemicals reach your uterus (womb), they may cause you to go into labor before your baby has fully developed.

According to some estimates, periodontists may contribute to as many as 45,500 preterm, low birth-weight babies every year in the United States alone.  That is more than those attributed to smoking and alcohol use.

Facts About Preterm, Low Birth-Weight Babies

Babies who are born before the 36th week of pregnancy (a normal pregnancy lasts 40 weeks), and weighing less than 5 pounds 8 ounces, are called preterm, low birth-weight babies.Some of these babies may devlop alowly and experience serious health problems, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy, chronic lung disease, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder.

What You Can Do

Visit your dental professional several times while you are pregnant to have a dental examination and your teeth cleaned.  Also, make sure to brush your teeth teice a day and floss at least once a day.

What Your Dental Professional Needs to Know

Your dental professional needs to know certain facts about your health to make sure you receive the best treatment during your pregnancy.  This includes the following:

*Is your pregnancy high-risk?

*Which month of pregnancy are you in?

*Are you taking any medications?

*Have you noticed any changes in your teeth and gums?

*Have you noticed gum swelling, redness or bleeding?

Dos and Don’ts for a Healthy Pregnancy

DO

Here are some additional tips to help you take care of yourself and give your baby a grerat start:

*Eat healthy, nutricious foods every day.. These include grains, vegetables, chicken, fish or beans.

*Some light exercise each day, according to your doctor’s advice.  For example, a daily walk may help keep you fit.

*Drink eight glasses of fluid a day (a variety of water, milk and fruit juices).

*Wear a seatbelt.  Remember to buckle the lap belt under your stomach and use the shoulder belt.

*Follow the advice of your health care and dental professionals.

DON’T

*Eat raw or undercooked meats, fish, poultry, shellfish or eggs.

*Drink alcohol or smoke.

*Eat to much junk food or drink a lot of coffee or tea.

*Take vitamins without first asking your doctor’s advice.  Make sure the vitamins you do take include a proper dose of folic acid, which can help prevent some birth defects associated with your baby’s spine.

*Take  over-the-counter medications like aspirin, cough medicine or cold remedies without asking your doctor.

*Take long, hot baths.

A Final Word

Taking care of your health, including caring for your teeth and gums, is a good way to help your unborn baby.  By seeing your healthcare provider and maintaining good health, you may even give your baby a better chanc to be born on time and at a healthy weight.

 

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