Good Oral Care Can Prevent Gum Disease and Premature Labor

Photo Credit: Steve Snodgrass from Flickr

Pregnancy and Oral Care

Women who have just found out they are pregnant usually start seeing their doctor early on. They may also begin to take vitamins and will start eating healthier. However, if a newly expectant mom hasn’t made a trip to visit the dentist yet, she is overlooking one crucial factor that can lead to complications during pregnancy. Women should learn what gum disease is, the effects it can have on pregnancy, and how they can prevent complications through proper oral care habits.

How does pregnancy change the gums?

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can decrease the body’s ability to fight bacteria that forms along the gum line, and also cause an increase of blood flow to the entire body, including the gums. These hormonal changes can lead to sensitive or infected gums. Many women notice bleeding or inflamed gums during pregnancy, especially during the second trimester. When the gums first show signs of irritation or inflammation, it is known as gingivitis. If a woman does not take care of her oral health while pregnant, she can develop gum disease. This can pose a risk to not only her health, but that of her baby’s, as well.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection of the mouth. The infection can cause bleeding, irritated and swollen gums. If left untreated, the infection can weaken the bone that holds the teeth in place, and eventually cause tooth loss.

What are the risks of gum disease during pregnancy?

Some studies have shown that there is a link between gum disease and premature labor. Babies who are born prematurely are at risk for a low-birth weight and other health problems. Some doctors suggest that preterm labor may occur due to the infection passing to the baby in utero, while others suggest that it may be due to an increase of a hormone-like substance, known as prostaglandin E2 that forms in the mouth when a woman has gum disease. This increase in prostaglandin E2 is also associated with labor, so in theory, it may cause preterm birth. Although the reason for why preterm labor occurs when a woman has gum disease is not clear, it is still crucial that a woman prevents gum disease during pregnancy.

Can mouthwash prevent gum disease?

An interesting new study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that mouthwash can prevent gum disease during pregnancy. The study followed two groups of women during pregnancy, one group that used an alcohol-free mouthwash and another that only rinsed with water. Results from the study showed that women who used the mouthwash were less likely to develop gum disease or experience preterm labor, than the group who simply rinsed with water. The researchers concluded that women who used the mouthwash twice per day had about a 75 percent less risk for premature labor. Although further studies need to be done on this issue, this news is promising for women who are pregnant.

How can women prevent gum disease during pregnancy?

Have your say