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If you have a gum disease you’re more likely to have a baby that is born early and small. Zeena F Baria speaks to the experts.

Oral Hygiene becomes more important when you are pregnant. If you’re pregnant and panicking about your gums swelling up and bleeding, it’s time to take a deep breath and heat to the dentist right away. Cosmetic, laser and implant dentist Dr Suchetan Pradhan says that its common tio suffer from gum problems during pregnancy as the progesterone and estrogen levels go up in the body. “This signals the kidney to retain water as the placenta needs water for growth. As a result, soft tissues all over the body start retaining water, and this includes the gums. This water retention leads to the swelling of the gums, which occurs in almost 50 per cent of all pregnant women. In addition, if one doesn’t maintain perfect oral hygiene and have deposits of tartar and plaque, it can lead to a condition called Pregnancy Gingivitis. This is when gums start bleeding and you’re in pain. In a few cases, a condition called Pregnancy Epulis occurs, when a fibrous growth takes place in the gums, which needs to be removed in the second trimester itself,” says Dr Pradhan.

During pregnancy, it’s vital to go to a dentist for regular check-ups and get your teeth cleaned regularly. The Epulis can be easily removed by a laser, which is painless.

Dental Expert Dr Shantanu Jaradi says that pregnant women who have gum disease may be six times more likely to have a baby born too early and too small.

“Recent research suggests that the hormones of the body release to trigger labour may be similar to those released in response to an infection. Pregnancy is a time to take an extra care of your teeth hand your gums. Any infection during pregnancy is cause for concern. A mouth infection can lead to premature birth and low birth weight, putting your unborn baby at risk for conditions like cerebral palsy chronic lung disease, or even death. Pregnant women with gum disease are six times more likely to deliver their babies early than women with healthy gums. Research suggests a link between maternal oral health during pregnancy and the development of baby bottle tooth decay, affecting up to one in 10 children below the age of six in the world. Since tooth decay is a communicable disease that can be transmitted from person to person a reduction in maternal cavity-causing bacteria may diminish transmission of these bacteria between mother and child. Your gums are more susceptible to irritation and may bleed more often when you floss or brush your teeth. Gums usually clear up by themselves after the baby is born,” says Dr Jaradi.

Dentist Dr Bipin Patwardhan says that before planning a family, it is a good idea for women to visit the dentist for a thorough check up of the dental status regarding dental decay, gum diseases, impacted wisdom molars and other related problems. “Dental fillings, root canals, removal of painful impacted wisdom molars, oral prophylaxis to remove tartar and plaque along with home oral hygiene instruction and educating women can be carried out very effectively at this stage.

Pregnancy gingivitis if left untreated can lead to receding gum-lines, mobility of teeth and foul odour from the mouth. The presence of bacteria on these inflamed tissue can allow transgression of bacteria and their toxins in the blood stream causing its effect on the mother and the foetus,” says Dr Patwardhan.

Brushing three times daily, rinsing with water after snacking, flossing and using a non-alcoholic mouth wash will prevent bacterial build up around the teeth and the gums. A visit to the dental office twice during pregnancy will allow your dentist to observe the effectiveness of your oral hygiene procedure. A simple scaling procedure helps reduce plaque build-up. which is the cause of dental decay and gingivitis.

Brush your teeth after every meal and floss your teeth at least once a day.

If you have morning sickness, rinse teeth thoroughly after vomiting. Nausea may lead to increased snacking, and some women also allow themselves more sweets. This increases the risk of cavities. It is therefore necessary to brush your teeth more frequently than usual. Chew a sugar-free gum for ten minutes after eating a snack.

Avoid sweet and sticky foods that tend to be high in refined sugars.

Grab more wholesome foods such as cheese, fresh fruits or vegetables — they’re better for your teeth. Eat grain products that are rich in fibre, such as breakfast cereals, oatmeal and wholegrain bread.

Drink lots of water. Water and milk are the best drinks for your teeth during pregnancy.

Even if your gums bleed, it is important to brush your teeth frequently with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.

Source – Saturday 17 July 2010, Bombay Times, Body & Soul, The Times of India

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