But good dental health is important for mums-to-be. Here’s why…
We hear from Caroline Oram, of Brighton’s Dental Health Spa, on her experience during pregnancy
From personal experience, I know that women have a lot more things to worry about when they are pregnant than their teeth! There is, however, a very good reason why free NHS dental treatment is available to pregnant women. The mouth is the gateway to your body. The blood supply from your mouth links to your whole body including the placenta around your unborn baby and your baby itself.
Unfortunately, your mouth is also a bacteria-filled gateway! There are more than 700 different bacteria living in the human mouth (both good and bad) and, at any one time, you may have up to 10 billion bacteria in your mouth – which is about two billion more than you would find on the average toilet seat! If you have open sores in your mouth (bleeding gums), the bacteria can enter your blood supply and travel around your body.
Vast amounts of research have been carried out both in the UK and the States to support findings that if you have gum disease (red, swollen and/or bleeding gums) you increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, strokes, respiratory disease and diabetes. More importantly, some evidence indicates that gum disease can cause increased levels of hormones that bring on labour and so lead to premature and underweight babies. Recent research in the states has also found evidence of the bacteria that cause gum disease being present in the blood supply of newborn babies having passed directly from the mothers blood supply through the placenta.
Pregnant women are at risk of gum disease as soon as they get pregnant due to the effects of a 10-fold increase of progesterone in their bodies. This huge surge in progesterone can bring on what is sometimes termed ‘pregnancy gingivalis’ as the hormone encourages and supports the growth of the bad bacteria in the mouth. It is essential that pregnant women pay extra attention to their oral health and gums at this time.
Unfortunately, the NHS care offered does not extend to hygiene treatments, which is what is needed at this time. A dental hygienist has the specialist training required to treat sore and swollen gums and will be able to give your teeth and mouth the deep cleaning that is required. She will also be able to advise you on the importance of using floss or inter dental brushes everyday to get between the teeth where the bad bacteria lurk and will encourage the use of mouth wash to get to the bacteria that breeds on the back of your tongue (use of a tongue scraper may also be advised if necessary). Probiotic drinks may also be recommended to assist the growth of the good bacteria in the mouth.
It is also essential that pregnant women practice good personal hygiene as touching your teeth or gums with unwashed hands could mean catching illnesses such as swine flu and e.coli, which could ultimately spread to their unborn child.
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