Pregnant women usually take care of their physical health, but how many consider their oral health? All moms-to-be should because gum disease, bacteria and other oral infections can affect a mother’s overall health and may negatively affect the baby’s birth weight.
“There is increasing evidence that links periodontal disease with low birth weight babies,” says Calgary periodontist Dr. Tara Habijanac. “We want both mothers and babies to be as healthy as possible.”
Pregnancy makes a woman more susceptible to gum disease, so Dr. Hanijanc says pregnant women should be more vigilant about their daily brushing and flossing. She advises them to schedule a checkup and cleaning before becoming pregnant, if possible, and during their second trimester. At the dental office, it is important to let your dentist know you are pregnant before any procedure is conducted. Dentists prefer to wait until the second trimester to do fillings or dental surgery, but emergency dental work should be addressed immediately.
One myth associated with pregnancy is that it weakens teeth and causes cavities. In fact, poor oral care that allows plaque and bacteria to form is the usual culprit. However, a woman with morning sickness may be more susceptible to cavities due to the acid associated with vomiting. “She should rinse her mouth with water or diluted baking soda immediately after each incident,” says Dr. Karyn Isbister, a general dentist. “Then, follow up with brushing, flossing and a fluoride rinse. It’s also good to drink lots of water.”
The same diligence to oral care should be taken once the baby is born. “Mothers need to be equally diligent with their oral care after the baby is born,” says Isbister. “This can be a challenge when you’re tired and short of time, but it pays off.”
It is also important to remember that as a mother you are an important role model for your child. If you introduce your child to oral care in infancy and make it part of their daily routine, brush and floss daily yourself, and visit the dentist regularly, your child will pick up the same healthy habits.
To find out more about oral health care, talk to your dentist or go to the Alberta Dental Association and College website, abda.ab.ca.
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