Premature Birth Due to Gum Disease
Gum disease is a common problem in the United States, affecting almost half of adults 30 years of age and older. It causes a range of unpleasant symptoms, including oral pain. Although problems can arise when left untreated, pregnant women are at a greater risk of complications if gum disease develops.
Doctors typically focus on reproductive health during a woman’s pregnancy. However, oral health is just as important.
Researchers have found that expectant mothers with gum disease could suffer various complications, including premature birth. Proper dental and gum care is critical while pregnant to ensure the healthy development of your baby.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease, also referred to as periodontitis, is an infection of a person’s gums. It causes damage to soft tissue and the bones supporting the teeth. Without immediate treatment, loosened teeth and tooth loss can occur.
The most common symptoms of gum disease include:
- Bad breath
- Puffy or swollen gums
- Pus between the gums and teeth
- Spaces forming between teeth
- Pain while chewing food
- Purplish, dusky red, or bright red gums
- Bleeding when flossing or brushing teeth
- Bleeding gums
- Loose teeth or tooth loss
- Receding gums
- Changes in how the teeth line up while biting
- Tender gums to the touch
Common risk factors of gum disease include more than just hormonal changes during pregnancy. Other risk factors are:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Drug and alcohol use
- Vitamin C deficiency
- Medical conditions affecting the body’s immune system, such as HIV and leukemia
- Some diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis
Although gum disease is prevalent among adults, it’s entirely preventable with good oral hygiene. It’s particularly vital to take good care of your teeth and gums if you’re pregnant. Periodontitis could lead to preterm labor, increasing your baby’s risk of severe medical issues and even death.
How Pregnancy Affects Oral Health
The levels of the progesterone hormone increase significantly while pregnant. Expectant mothers are more susceptible to bacterial plaque forming on the gums and teeth, resulting in gingivitis. It typically develops between two and eight months of pregnancy, reaching its peak during the third trimester.
Besides increasing hormones, eating junk food and skimping on proper dental care can also contribute to a build-up of plaque.
When you’re pregnant, you can experience a range of unpleasant symptoms. You might not have the energy to brush your teeth every night before going to bed. Although skipping your oral hygiene routine might not seem like much of an issue, it could cause life-threatening complications for your baby.
Studies Linking Premature Birth and Gum Disease
Preterm birth happens when a baby is born before the mother completes 37 weeks of pregnancy.
According to multiple studies, pregnant women are at an increased risk of premature birth from developing periodontitis. One particular study found that women who gave birth prematurely were 45% more likely to have gum disease than women who carried their babies to term.
Researchers believe bacteria in the mouth can travel through the bloodstream and enter the placenta. This leads to inflammation and affects the amniotic sac, causing it to rupture early.
Babies born prematurely are at an increased risk of complications, including:
- Heart defects
- Cerebral palsy
- Poorly developed respiratory system
- Bleeding in the brain
- Psychological issues
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Hearing and vision problems
- Weakened immune system
- Delays in cognitive or behavioral development
- Chronic health issues
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
You must make an appointment with your dentist if you experience any symptoms of gum disease to avoid pregnancy complications down the road.
Treating Gum Disease in Pregnant Women
If caught early, you can treat gingivitis and gum disease.
The most common pregnancy gum disease treatments include:
- Deep cleaning to rid your teeth of plaque build-up
- Oral antibiotics to fight the infection
- Prescription mouth rinse to manage the symptoms
- Surgery to repair the gums if other treatment methods don’t work
Let your dentist know you’re pregnant so that they can determine an appropriate treatment plan. Some periodontitis treatments are not recommended for pregnant women.
Preventing Gum Disease During Pregnancy
Fortunately, preventing gum disease is as easy as practicing good oral hygiene. You should brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes. Additionally, flossing after brushing can rid your teeth of trapped food and bacteria.
During early pregnancy, you might feel constant nausea and not have much of an appetite. However, you should try to follow a well-balanced diet. Eating healthy food, such as vegetables and fruit, is a must. Be sure to stay away from anything that can attack your gums and teeth, such as candy, soda, and sugar. If you’re a smoker, you should quit once you discover that you’re pregnant. This protects not only your teeth but also the developing fetus.
Everyone should visit their dentists twice a year. You should follow this schedule even when you’re pregnant. Common preventative dental care includes:
- Routine cleanings
- Oral examinations
- Dental X-rays
You can safely undergo X-rays while pregnant. Inform your dentist so they can protect your abdomen while performing this test. If you’re experiencing any mouth pain or other issues, let them know so they can check for signs of gingivitis or gum disease. They can begin treatments immediately to prevent minor problems from turning into a serious condition.
Contact Babylon Dental Care
At Babylon Dental Care, we have a highly trained and experienced team to provide the services you need to maintain good oral health. You should prioritize your dental hygiene while pregnant to keep your baby safe and prevent complications that could put them at risk.
When you meet us for the first time, we can discuss your needs and develop a preventative plan to keep your mouth, teeth, and gums healthy. If you have already developed gum disease, we can create a plan to manage symptoms and prevent further damage from occurring.
You can depend on your dental team from Babylon Dental Care to keep your baby safe while performing surgery and other necessary treatment. We care about the health of our patients as well as the babies they’re carrying.