Nearly half of all American adults suffer from some form of periodontal disease, including everything from mild gum recession to full-blown periodontitis.
That is a staggering statistic, but it doesn’t tell the full story. Two classes of adults are particularly at risk, the elderly (65 and up) and pregnant women.
But why are pregnant women at a higher risk of gum disease than anyone else?
Factors That Put Pregnant Women at Higher Risk of Gum Disease
At different points in a woman’s life, changes in hormone levels will affect her susceptibility to periodontal disease. The reasons for this are complex, but suffice it to say that hormones affect periodontal tissues in a way that can put them at greater risk of deterioration.
The causes of gum disease will still be the same, however, including such things as poor oral hygiene, eating foods with high sugar content, not drinking enough water, and not getting enough vitamin C and other nutrients important to gum health.
Many pregnant women will experience swelling, redness, or even bleeding of the gums during their pregnancy. Lumps (typically non-cancerous) may also form on the gums, though they usually disappear on their own after the pregnancy. However, getting gingivitis treatment and other professional help from a periodontist can alleviate these problems.
Dangers of Poor Periodontal Health During Pregnancy
Some may be tempted to think that gum disease and oral hygiene are the least of one’s worries during a pregnancy. But maybe they shouldn’t be. According to recent studies, infections in the gums and mouth can spread to other parts of a woman’s body and put her baby’s health at risk.
In general, periodontal disease (left unchecked) can lead to systemic problems like heart disease, inflammations, and “out of control” diabetes. In the mouth, it can lead to extreme sensitivity to hot/cold or while chewing, chronically bad breath (halitosis), sores and ulcers, painful infection, and ultimately tooth loss.
But for pregnant women, the danger also exists of the periodontal disease affecting the baby. Avoiding necessary gingivitis treatment puts your baby at risk. Periodontal disease has been associated with preterm births and/or low-weight births.
The CDC tells us that babies born at less than five and a half pounds are at greater risk of having physical, mental, or social learning disabilities. And the same holds true for those born three or more weeks early.
What Should Pregnant Women Do About Periodontal Health?
The first thing to do as a pregnant woman, concerning your periodontal and oral health, is simply to make yourself aware of the risks and be on the lookout for any symptoms. Symptoms like bleeding, reddened, swollen, or tender gums could mean you need gingivitis treatment. It’s always safer to see a periodontist than to just wait and hope the symptoms will go away.
Secondly, maintain regular brushing and flossing during pregnancy. Use an antiseptic mouthwash, and always brush the tongue since it harbors much bacteria. Proper oral hygiene is your first defense.
Third, it is good to schedule regular dental cleanings and one or more periodontal check-ups as part of your regular prenatal care. If you do need treatment, your periodontist will know which kinds of non-surgical procedures will be safe and effective for pregnant women.
To learn more about how pregnancy interacts with periodontal disease, or to schedule an appointment for gingivitis treatment, contact Dr. Jeffrey J. Sevor of Central Florida Periodontics, at either the Winter Park or Winter Springs location.