Brushing for twoHow your oral health affects your pregnancy and your unborn Baby

Ratna Yumkham
During this extraordinary time of gestation, moms-to-be experience a heightened sense of responsibility that goes beyond self and often leads to elevated consciousness of their health. Oral care should be considered a part of ante-natal check up. However, despite the importance of oral hygiene and its many implications in the overall health of both the mother and the child, knowledge and awareness of oral care is surprisingly low.
Here are a few common FAQs regarding the relation of oral health in pregnant mothers and the unborn baby.
Is oral hygiene important during pregnancy?
Pregnancy may make women more prone to periodontal (gum) disease and cavities. Oral health may be considered an important part of prenatal care, given that poor oral health during pregnancy can lead to poor health outcomes for the mother and baby.
Can poor oral hygiene affect pregnancy and the unborn Baby?
Neglecting oral and dental health during pregnancy does not only cause problems such as tooth decay and tooth loss, but may also lead to problems such as premature birth, low birth weight infant, and pre-eclampsia.
Oral infection can have systemic effects in the body. Gingivitis releases inflammatory markers and bacteria into the systemic blood stream which may reach the placenta and induce poor pregnancy outcomes such as preterm delivery. It’s important that women and health providers around the world know that taking good care of oral hygiene is not just for the health of the mother but also for her baby.
Is dental work safe during pregnancy?
The benefits of seeing a dentist during pregnancy far outweigh any potential risks. That’s true whether you’re talking about basic tooth cleaning, having a cavity filled or more involved dental work.
Which trimester is not safe for dental treatment ?
Avoid dental treatment during pregnancy in the first trimester, except for cleanings or emergency care. During this time most of the fetus’ organs and organ systems are developing. After the first trimester, the majority of formation is complete and the remainder of fetal development is devoted primarily to growth and maturation.
If dental work is necessary during pregnancy, the second trimester (3 to 6 months) is usually the best time to schedule it. Also, if non-emergency dental work is needed during the third trimester, it is usually postponed until after the birth. This is to avoid the risk of premature labor and prolonged time lying on your back.
Is it safe to use toothpaste while pregnant?
Fortunately, fluoride toothpaste is safe for use during pregnancy so long as you ensure you never swallow it while brushing. Therefore you must exercise caution and always spit out the fluoride toothpaste after brushing and rinse your mouth.
How does oral hygiene affect fertility?
For men, poor oral health can reduce their sperm count and the sperm's ability to swim. In women, bacteria triples the risk of infertility before pregnancy. The direct association between dental hygiene and fertility is just another way teeth & gum health is tied to overall well–being.
Based on the few research that have been conducted on the association between periodontitis (poor gum health) and reproductive health, it can be concluded that periodontitis can operate as a source of infection, resulting in bacteraemia (spread of infection in the blood stream) which can lead to difficulties in women conceiving naturally or with the help of IVF.
Most of the research focuses on how gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, affects fertility, which is thought to be due to the body’s immune response to the bacterial infection caused by this disease. As your body is fighting off an infection, it can cause widespread inflammation. One fear is that the immune system will target healthy cells, including growing sperm cells as well , while trying to fight the infection. In women, inflammation may raise the chance of miscarriage, infertility, or IVF treatment failure. If you are planning a baby, you should schedule a dental exam appointment for you and your spouse to ensure you both have good oral health.
Can IVF medication affect your teeth?
Additionally, couples who plan on using assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF should visit their dentist prior to treatment as hormones administered as part of their treatment can exacerbate preexisting periodontal conditions that might affect the patient's overall health.
Don’t share germs after your baby is born
Your baby is born with 20 little teeth growing under their gums and no germs in their mouth. But germs are easily passed from your mouth to your baby—like when you share spoons, food or lick their pacifier— and that can lead to cavities in your baby’s mouth. So do your best to not put things from your mouth into your baby’s. And taking care of your own teeth and gums—by brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist regularly—will cut down on germs in your mouth, leaving fewer to pass on to your child.
Does your dental health during pregnancy affect your baby’s teeth ?
In short, yes ! The presence of untreated cavities in a mother’s mouth can increase her newborn’s risk of getting tooth decay as a baby or young child as tooth decay is an infectious, transmissible disease that results, in part, from a build-up of cariogenic (cavity-causing) bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria can be spread from person to person, including from mother to newborn child, through saliva.
All in all, expectant mothers who brush their teeth thoroughly can reduce the risk of suffering dangerous complications in pregnancy and take a step towards reducing risk of future dental infection in their newborn baby. Brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and after each meal when possible. Good nutrition keeps the oral cavity healthy and strong; sensible, balanced meals containing calcium and limited excess acidity and sugar are best for you and your baby's oral health.

The writer is Assistant Professor in the Department of Paediatric and Preventive Dentistry, Dental College, RIMS, Imphal