When I was pregnant with my daughter, I cracked a tooth while eating chips and salsa. It surprised me as much as it pained me, and I later learned that this is common in pregnant women. The added hormones of pregnancy soften our teeth and gums making it more common for pregnant women to develop gingivitis, cavities or as in my case, to injure or chip our teeth. Interestingly enough, the damage occurred to the only tooth in which I had a filling. This was actually providential as this tooth had an old amalgam filling which had been placed when I was 6 years old. The damage occurred very close to my due date, so my dentist gave me some temporary treatments and I had a new filling placed after I delivered.
I recently discussed dentition during pregnancy with Dr. Benjamin Nemec, a general family and cosmetic dentist in the Westlake Hills are of Austin, Texas.
“The mouth is the gateway to the body,” emphasized Dr. Nemec. “Anything that comes through the mouth has the potential to affect the entire body.”
Dr. Nemec then went on to explain how gingivitis and/or poor dentition can affect a woman and her unborn child. “There are good mouth bacteria and bad mouth bacteria,” says Dr. Nemec. “In general we want all the mouth bacteria to stay in the mouth, but we can’t ignore the fact that when we eat, drink, brush our teeth and floss, some of those bacteria are dislodged and are released, swallowed and introduced into our systems. For a pregnant women, this means the bacteria will eventually access her baby via the placenta, so it’s important that we minimize the amount of bad bacteria that is available.”
Dr. Nemec recommends that women at least have regular semi-annual dental cleanings and examinations and he recommends that they have additional care as needed while they are pregnant. “The added hormones during pregnancy change the environment of a woman’s mouth. She is at greater risk of developing gingivitis (gum disease), cavities and other dental problems. If problems are caught early, they are easily treated with minimal trauma to mother or risk to her baby,” says Nemec.
What struck me is that dental problems can have adverse effects on the pregnancy. A woman with poor dentition can develop bacterial infections in her mouth. Some of that bacteria can enter her blood stream, travel to the placenta and in some cases, cause inflammation in and around the placenta and fetus. Dr. Nemec explained to me that There are documented cases of bacteremia (bacteria infected blood) during pregnancy that result in preterm labor and complications with the newborn- and it all started because a pregnant woman had poor dentition.
With everything going on during pregnancy, unless you get that little reminder in the mail, you may completely forget to go to the dentist. Do keep up with your dental examinations and see your dentist immediately if you note bleeding gums, pain when you chew, heat or cold intolerance or any other problems. Although there will be some medications and procedures that you can’t have during your pregnancy, dentistry has become so technological that many procedures are easily performed in the office and present minimal risk to you and your baby. However, poor dentition can result in bacteremia for mother and the baby, preterm labor and other serious complications.
It’s my pleasure to introduce to you J. Davis Harte. Davis and I are twitter friends and I have come to truly admire her incredible fortitude. Davis is a Type I (Insulin Dependent) Diabetic who keeps impeccable control of her blood sugars. Still, she could not escape pregnancy complications and prescribed bed rest. But not to worry, Davis and her adorable daughter are just fine! Her is Davis’s story.
“I have a passion for both children and designing interior spaces. Therefore my consultancy business, Paradigm Spaces, rightly focuses on the designing of spaces for children!”
Davis is a time management maven. Davis balances advising commercial design projects while finishing her Master’s Degree in Design and the Near Environment at Oregon State University, teaching undergraduate studios and being a new mom.
After living and (mostly) thriving with insulin dependent diabetes (Type 1) for 33 years, it came as no real surprise to Davis and her OB when she began to display signs of pre-eclampsia. At 34 weeks, she was persuaded to start bed rest. However, having already invested 3 years in her graduate program, a medically complicated pregnancy wasn’t about to arrest her progress! During the last few weeks of her data collection, Davis bent the rules slightly of her prescribed modified bed rest by allowing her mom and husband to drive her to the preschool where she was collecting her data. (These were her only outings aside from regular non-stress tests and growth-scans for about a month!) She monitored her blood pressures at home and was checked regularly by her OB for urine protein levels. Meanwhile, her diabetes management could not have been more well-controlled. She had a final A1C (blood glucose average test) of 5.7 – nearly as good as a person without diabetes. Nevertheless, her baby was estimated at 9lbs 12oz at 37 weeks and the pre-eclampsia was progressing, so she and her husband made the decision to start the induction process. Her beautiful daughter Freya was born on September 16th, 2009, weighing 9lbs 12oz and 21.5 inches long. Not a typical preeclampsia size – but Davis has never done anything typically and she couldn’t be more thankful or proud of the healthy outcome for both herself and her daughter.
To learn more about Davis and her incredible journey with Type I Diabetes, visit http://tudiabetes.com/profile/davissimo
This podcast discusses why some women “wait” to have children later in life. Are women really waiting to start families or are life circumstances occurring such that later is when pregnancy occurs?