When a woman is pregnant, having periodontal disease can put her and her unborn child in danger of certain problems which are made even worse if she is diabetic as well.
Gum disease often starts small, with plaque in the mouth not being removed, but over time it will feed bacteria that destroys gums, tissue, bone, and eventually teeth themselves. If the bacteria is not removed and treated that the bacteria will destroy gum, and move into those pockets to breed faster. Over time, the gums and even bone will recede, leaving teeth unstable and likely to fall out.
With pregnancy there are huge hormonal changes, and these make it much more likely that the pregnant woman develops gum disease, and with this comes higher risks of premature birth, low birth weight, and even preeclampsia. This is why we would always recommend expectant mothers to have a dental check up as soon as they know that they are pregnant, to protect both their health and the health of their unborn child.
Explaining The Connection
Three main theories have been put forward to try to understand this connection between gum disease in a mother to the problems that her unborn child may experience:
- Prostaglandin: this hormone is raised in people who have gum disease, and it is a well-known labour-inducing chemical which means that mothers with gum disease are therefore more likely to give birth before they reach full term, leading to undergrown babies.
- CRP or c-reactive protein: gum disease will force a response from our immune systems, leading to much higher counts of c-reactive proteins. As well as being linked to an increase in heart disease, this protein can lead to blood clots in the mother and preeclampsia in the unborn child.
- Bacteria spread: as the bacteria in the pregnant mother’s mouth grows, some of it can get into the blood stream and spread around her body – and the two most common places for it to want to colonise are the coronary arteries and the mammary glands.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Gum disease within pregnant women can be treated, and can be treated completely safely for both mother and child – after all, it is essential to prevent the periodontal disease from spreading and getting worse so that a healthy pregnancy and birth can be achieved.
Your dentist will first make a full examination of your mouth, including teeth, gums, jawbone, and surrounding tissues. After a diagnosis has been made, scaling and root planing as part of the cleaning stage will be carried out so that as much bacteria as possible is removed from the mouth. Once this has been carried out, the risk to mother and child can be reduced by up to 50%, and it prevents any further decay and tooth loss for the mother.
After this, the dentist will offer careful instructions and guidance to the mother so that they can prevent the gum disease from returning. Excellent oral hygiene and dietary changes will be required, and certain vitamins and minerals will be recommended. The dentist will almost certainly wish to see the patient at least one more time before the mother comes to full term.
For a free consultation with Dr. Paige Woods, call (619) 640-5100