gingivitis

Gingivitis and Preterm Labor

October 29th, 2009

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.