Why Oral Health Matters for Pregnant Women
Let's get right to the point. During pregnancy, the mouth matters. We want women to take the small yet important steps that will keep their teeth and gums healthy. Why? Because research shows that a woman's oral health during pregnancy is a good predictor of her newborn's risk for tooth decay. And mothers can (unintentionally) transmit to infants the bacteria that play the primary role in causing tooth decay.
Although four in 10 pregnant women have tooth decay or gum disease, many of them are not getting dental care. They may not realize that getting dental services during pregnancy is both safe and important. Or they may not know the acidity level in the mouth rises during pregnancy, putting them at greater risk for tooth decay. In addition, hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause gums to swell and bleed more easily than usual.
Besides its connection to an infant's teeth and mouth, poor oral health for a pregnant woman may be linked to birth complications, such as preeclampsia, pre-term births and low birth-weight infants. Health professionals, oral health advocates and family members should encourage pregnant women to take care of their oral health.
4 Ways Pregnant Women Can Give Their Newborns a Healthy Start:
- Make and keep your regular dental appointment. Getting a dental exam will help pregnant women identify any oral health problems they might have and, if necessary, get appropriate treatment or guidance.
- Brush at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. It's especially important to brush your teeth right before you go to bed. Why? The saliva in your mouth helps to combat the decay process. But your mouth produces less saliva at night, leaving your teeth more vulnerable to cavity-causing bacteria.
- Drink tap water every day. Many communities in the U.S. add fluoride to their drinking water, which makes tap water an even better choice. (Many brands of bottled water have little or no fluoride.) Avoid or limit sodas, "energy drinks" and other sugary beverages.
- Talk to your dentist or doctor about ways to prevent or manage any dental problems. Tooth decay is preventable. Even when the decay process has begun, there are ways to prevent it from progressing to the point of forming a cavity. A dentist or doctor can answer your questions.
Looking for fact sheets and other resources? Want to learn what states are doing to address oral health during pregnancy? Visit this resource page, created by the Children's Dental Health Project. This issue is receiver greater coverage in the news media. To read some of the stories that cover this issue, visit our It's News page and scroll down to the "Moms Matter" section.