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Premature Birth: Helping Pregnant Patients Understand The Dangers Of Gum Disease

Being pregnant is a wonderful time for women, and it’s packed with so much to do when preparing for their baby. Unfortunately, during this busy time, one of the things that sometimes gets less attention is dental health. This is really is troublesome, because dental issues like gum disease can lead to premature births. In fact, it’s been shown that upwards of 40% of women develop gum disease during their pregnancy; that’s truly staggering. It’s important that we as dentists and hygienists help women understand the dangers present to them and their child due to letting their oral health lapse during pregnancy.

I’ve been a dentist for nearly 20 years, and routinely work with pregnant women to help keep their mouth healthy. I know many other dentists are as well, so I’ve put together my checklist on what I do to make sure oral health doesn’t fall by the wayside during pregnancy.

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Explaining The Dangers Of Gum Disease
First off, it’s important to understand the dangers of gum disease and poor oral health. Many women are simply unaware of the danger it poses, and would be much more inclined to take it seriously if they’re educated on the risks.

Make sure to explain how gum disease is a bacterial infection and when left untreated can spread to their uterus and placenta. This directly leads to a higher risk of premature birth and other health issues. Not all women know this, and knowledge is half the battle. Armed with this knowledge, they’ll see exactly where the dangers are in letting their oral health go.

Encouraging Regular Visits
It’s also important to encourage regular dentist visits in your pregnant patients. Most women won’t even know they have any serious issues if they don’t go. With so much to do during pregnancy, it’s very easy just to put off going to the dentist for a few months. Help them understand that dental care is just as important as any other doctors visit during their pregnancy.

Many women are also a bit hesitant to go to the dentist while pregnant, and worried about safety. It’s important to encourage women to go, and assure them that most procedures are perfectly safe to have done while pregnant. Simple things like teeth cleanings are always okay, and go a long way in preventing more dangerous issues. Even more complicated procedures are safe for pregnant women, so let them know not to put things off, the sooner they get the necessary work done the better.

It’s also important to know that pregnant women are more susceptible to issues like gum disease due to their increased hormone levels. Even with good home care they are still potentially at risk. That’s why dental visits are so important, as they can help determine if this is the case and catch issues before they get worse.

Help Them Establish a Home Routine
Good oral health starts at home, and you should really drive this home for your patients. The best way to prevent gum disease and other dental issues is simply to follow a good oral health care routine. Preventative care is really the best option here, and when done correctly is the best way to prevent gum disease.

This includes the big three, brushing, flossing and mouthwash. Educate your patients on the importance of each one, and make sure that they understand the proper techniques for each. If you notice them lacking in a certain area, make sure to bring this up so they have all the information they need to correct any issues. Going back to the point above, let them know that even with proper care they still need to keep up with their appointments.

You can also let them know the dangers of sugar and urge them to limit their intake. Sugar’s role in tooth decay is well known, but it never hurts to reiterate the facts to your patients, especially those who might be eating a less balanced diet due to pregnancy cravings.

Assisting in Treatment and Questions
It’s also important to be ready to make treatment recommendations and assist in answering any questions. If a woman is diagnosed with issues they are likely to have a lot of questions about it and their treatment. Be prepared to answer questions about the treatment, as well as pregnancy specific items such as any anesthetics interaction with their unborn baby.

This is very important as it’s essential to make sure the patient understands that the procedures are safe for both her and her child. Many women are a bit ambivalent about dental work during their pregnancy, and may choose to skip getting it done. Help them understand the dangers of doing this, and give them the knowledge that getting dental work done during your pregnancy is safe.
Having a healthy mouth is very important to a healthy pregnancy, and few people recognize that. Getting the knowledge out there about things such as gum disease and its role in premature births can help get more pregnant women to the dentist before anything happens. It’s one big step towards having a healthy, happy pregnancy.