In addition to eating well and avoiding alcohol, expectant mothers should also pay special attention to their oral health, according to the California Dental Hygienists’ Association (CDHA), which cites studies linking a mother’s oral health with that of her baby.
“Inflammatory chemicals produced by gum infection are thought to travel through mother’s body and influence the child’s health,” said CDHA President Susan Lopez, RDH, B.S. “Studies have also suggested that gum disease may influence pre-term low birth weight babies.”
CDHA wishes to promote healthy, happy pregnancies, not just for the mother, but for the baby as well. That’s why the organization is offering the following tips to help women stay on a healthy path during pregnancy:
● Visit your Dentist and Hygienist regularly during the pregnancy as the surge of hormones associated with pregnancy can cause gum tissue to overreact to irritants, such as plaque and tartar, leading to issues such as pregnancy gingivitis, increased bleeding, swollen, or sensitive gums. Usually this condition begins in the first trimester, but can be managed with effective brushing and flossing partnered with regular, sometimes more frequent, professional cleanings. These conditions generally resolve after the birth of the baby.
● Drink fluoridated water. Many bottled waters do not contain fluoride, which is essential to the baby’s development of strong, cavity resistant teeth.
● Monitor your diet, lowering the cavity risk to the unborn child. Increased snacking between meals, as well as cravings, can lead to further increased risk of cavities. Sugary, acidic, and sticky foods pose a higher risk for cavities. Speak with your Hygienist who can recommend healthy alternatives with a lower cavity risk, such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
● Incorporate xylitol, a natural sugar substitute, into the diet because studies have shown a greater likelihood these mothers will have children with a reduced cavity risk, compared to those who do not.
● Ignore the myth that pregnancy can cause “soft teeth” and that the developing baby can take the calcium from the mothers teeth.
This is false. In actuality, adult teeth are in a very stable state. Calcium for the baby is obtained from many sources (mothers nutrition, muscles, bones), but not from the teeth. Increased cavities in pregnant women often stem from increased snacking and those experiencing morning sickness.
Vomiting from morning sickness brings stomach acid into the mouth, and this acid can eat away at the enamel causing cavities. Women with morning sickness should rinse with water (add a teaspoon of baking soda if available) and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing their teeth.
CDHA’s Susan Lopez also offered a reminder that babies are born with sterile mouths and their environment influences the type of bacteria they develop.
“Often parents, siblings, and caregivers will share spoons or kiss their child and in the process they unknowingly transfer their oral bacteria to the child’s mouth,” said Lopez. “In order to avoid sharing cavity and gum disease promoting bacteria with their children, it is imperative that parents do all they can to maintain a healthy mouth.”
For more information, please visit the CDHA web site: http://www.cdha.org
# # #
The California Dental Hygienists’ Association (CDHA) is the authoritative voice of the state’s dental hygiene profession. The organization was established more than 25 years ago when two regional associations merged to form a unified professional group. CDHA represents thousands of dental hygienists.