Certain health conditions are correlated to an increased risk for periodontal disease – perhaps better known as gum disease. While some of these conditions are serious health concerns (heart disease, certain cancers), one condition isn't a permanent condition and it isn't a disease at all. That condition is pregnancy.
While most people don't probably think much about the link between pregnancy and oral health, the fact is that pregnancy brings with it a major shift in a woman's hormone levels, which can have an impact on various aspects of overall health. One of the potential health problems associated with these hormonal changes is an increased risk for gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. Untreated gingivitis can lead to more serious dental problems, including periodontal disease and tooth loss.
The Possible Health Impacts
Periodontal disease may boost bodily levels of a hormone called prostaglandin, which is a compound that is known to induce labor. Elevated prostaglandin levels can lead to premature labor and delivery and low-birthweight babies.
In addition to increased prostaglandin levels, periodontal disease may also raise the body's inflammatory response and levels of a protein called CRP. An elevation of CRP is associated with an increased risk of stroke or heart attack, and it can also cause preeclampsia, an increase in maternal blood pressure that can have deleterious effects on a pregnant mother and her unborn baby.
Preventing the progression of gingivitis and the onset of periodontal disease is the easiest way to protect against its harmful effects during pregnancy. Daily, diligent brushing and flossing are of utmost importance during pregnancy to reduce the potential for gum problems; regular dental checkups can reveal the signs of gum disease in its nascent stages.
Following a diagnosis of periodontal disease, there are non-surgical treatment options to halt its progression, such as scaling and root planing to remove calculus and bacteria. These non-invasive treatment options pose little risk to an unborn child.
If you're pregnant or thinking of having a baby, talk to your dentist and discuss your dental treatment options. With your background in mind, your dentist can help you develop a timeline for ensuring your oral health care.
If you are pregnant, check with your dental insurance company. Some insurance carriers are now allowing for dental checkups more often than every six months for women who are pregnant or those dental patients with other pre-existing conditions such as heart disease or cancer, which may increase the potential for periodontal disease. Contact your insurance provider to find out whether you qualify for additional visits to your dentist. Staying on top of any potential problems is your best source of prevention.
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