If you watched any of the seven seasons of AMC’s series “Mad Men,” it blatantly illustrated just how drastically times have changed. Set in the 1960’s, the episodes followed the team of a Madison Avenue ad agency. As I watched, I was always shocked to see the characters do things we now know are oh-so-wrong.
For example, as true-to-life at the time, many people smoked heavily and drank alcohol throughout the day. Yet, the most shocking episode I watched were several pregnant women at a cocktail party, all smoking and drinking alcohol. At the time, people were unaware of the risks these choices posed to unborn babies. Now we know better.
Science has revealed that what the mother consumes (or inhales) is what the unborn baby endures as well. While it’s now common knowledge that alcohol and smoking is taboo during pregnancy, the level of bacteria in your mouth should be added to the list of precautions for moms-to-be.
When pregnant, the long list of dietary and medication restrictions are made to enhance the potential for healthy newborns. While many pregnant females now know to also avoid certain cheeses and seafood, a particular area of concern now pinpoints to the health of their gums.
Studies have shown that it is important for pregnant women to maintain excellent oral health for the well-being of their baby. According to the American Pregnancy Association (americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/swollen-gums-during-pregnancy/):
“Pregnancy gingivitis is caused by the hormonal changes that increase the blood flow to the gum tissue and cause your gums to be more sensitive, irritable, and swollen. These hormonal changes also hinder the body’s normal response to bacteria which can cause periodontal infections.”
Elevated hormones in pregnant women increase the risk for gum disease, causing nearly 50 percent to experience swollen, red and sore gums that bleed easily when brushing. The cause is a form of gum disease known as Pregnancy Gingivitis. Pregnancy hormones make the gums more susceptible to inflammation. This means they are more sensitive to the oral bacteria of gum disease.
It is estimated that a third of all pregnant women have some level of periodontal (gum) disease. As is coming to light through research findings, oral bacteria can be a destructive force for a pregnant female far beyond the mouth. Studies show that gum disease increases the risk for preterm delivery (before 37 weeks) and babies born at low birth weight.
The preterm birth rate for females without periodontal disease is approximately 11 percent as compared to almost 29 percent for women with moderate to severe levels.
It is suspected this is triggered when oral bacteria enter the bloodstream through tears in weakened gum tissues. When these bacteria reach placental membranes, it has been shown to cause inflammatory reactions that can lead to pre-eclampsia or early labor. Gum disease also increases the potential for late miscarriage. (www.nytimes.com/1996/10/09/us/gum-disease-in-pregnancy-linked-to-premature-low-weight-babies.html)
In one study, pregnant women who showed higher levels of antibodies to oral bacteria had a higher number of preterm births and babies born at low birth weight. Examinations of amniotic fluid and fetal cord blood samples showed the same elevated antibodies for babies born preterm or at low birth weight.
It is important for moms-to-be to know the signs of gum disease. They include tender gums that bleed when brushing, gums that are red in color (versus a healthy pink), frequent bad breath, or pus pockets that form on gum tissues. If you notice any of these, call promptly to be examined. Gum disease will not improve on its own and worsens when treatment is delayed.
Fortunately, studies also indicate that the successful treatment of gum disease lowers the risk of preterm births. This has motivated obstetricians to advise their patients on more closely monitoring their oral health and to see their dentist.
Give your baby an added advantage for a healthy beginning by ensuring your oral health is at its best. We provide treatment for nearly all stages of gum disease that is safe for pregnant women (and for all patients).