By: Alex Franz, MD, OBGYN
We all know that smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs poses a severe threat to the prenatal period, but it turns out that the minor act of brushing your teeth bears a weighty role in ensuring a resilient pregnancy and healthy baby. Recently, the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology cited evidence suggesting that there is a link between periodontal disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes. In other words, studies are now showing that poor dental hygiene increases the risk of pre-term birth, low-birth weight for baby, and/or miscarriage.
Think of it this way: The gums are the first line of security against bacterial invasions and all infections pose a threat to the health of the baby. Cavities and gum disease contribute to bacteria in the bloodstream which can cause a systemic inflammatory response (the body's defensive response to a threat) leading to a pre-term labor for mom.
A Refresher for Dental Hygiene Tips:
•Go to the dentist once or twice a year: Periodontal disease is a silent disease. This means that if you're infected, you probably don't know it, but your dentist will.
•DIY daily dental care: brush, floss, and mouthwash! Brush after every meal and replace your toothbrush every 1-3 months.
Treating gum disease during pregnancy may be too late so remember that timing is everything. Modify the risks by taking precautions. Good dental hygienic upkeep prior to pregnancy reduces the risks of pre-term labor.
Additionally, pre-term health is not just about dental hygiene. The cost of pre-term birth in the United States is roughly 28 billion annually-ouch! New data supports that folic acid intake decreases pre-term labor and delivery complications. Studies have shown that the lowest rate of pre-term births resulted from women taking folate supplementation 1 year prior to pregnancy. Vitamin B9 is the most important variable contributing to a full-term pregnancy.
Folic Acid Comes From:
•Dried beans & peas
The proper folate intake prevents pregnancy defects such as cleft lips/pallets, congenital heart defects (heart-structure problems), maternal anemia (not enough healthy red blood cells), premature labor, under-weight newborns, and neural tube defects. This essential nutrient also plays an important role in improving mom's immune system-a 'win-win' for both mom & the unborn baby. Remember, folic acid supplementation and good dental hygiene are essential for healthy full-term pregnancies and are important for pre-pregnancy planning.