Posted on: 18 February 2016Share
It's common knowledge that gum disease can cause severe damage to your oral health, with effects like gum recession and tooth loss. However, did you know that it can also have a harmful and irreversible impact on the rest of your body? Studies indicate that gum disease can increase your risk of problems like heart disease. More importantly for pregnant women, it's also been linked to premature birth and low birth weight babies. A study found that women with gum disease had a 25% chance of going into labour before 35 weeks—3 times more likely than women with healthy gums. It is not uncommon for pregnant women to have gum disease, given that hormone fluctuation can increase susceptibility to plaque buildup problems. However, you need not panic if you're suffering from gum disease. The same study also reported that those who tackled their gum disease were significantly less likely to give birth preterm. If you want to reduce the risk to yourself and your baby, follow these 4 steps to tackle your gum disease.
1. Get Periodontal Treatment
Take a trip to a periodontist such as Dr Edmond Lobaza as soon as you can. It's best to deal with gum disease as early as possible, as it can become more harmful as it develops. Your periodontist will be able to recommend the best course of treatment. Generally, you will need to undergo scaling and root planing—two deep cleaning treatments which remove bacteria from under your gums. During these treatments, your practitioner will use an ultrasonic tool to remove calculus, plaque, and biofilm from your teeth. While you may be concerned about undergoing any dental procedures during pregnancy, you need not worry. Studies have found that essential dental treatments like these present no risk to pregnant women. Topical and local anaesthetics to numb your gums during the procedures were also determined to be safe, so you won't need to worry about pain either. Periodontal treatment is the best way to stop gum disease in its tracks.
2. Improve Your Daily Routine
Once you've had your plaque and calculus removed, you'll need to keep on top of your oral health. Gum disease can continue or return if you don't look after your teeth in the future. If you have a case of "baby brain", you might find yourself forgetting to brush your teeth twice a day. However, this is precisely what could lead to a return of your periodontal disease. You may find that you need to be even more vigilant than you were before you got pregnant if you have frequent pregnancy cravings for sweet, tooth-damaging foods. If necessary, set reminders on your phone to prompt you. Brushing isn't enough on its own, though. Flossing is equally important. Flossing twice a day has been proven to reduce signs of gum disease by 40%, so make sure to add flossing to your routine if you haven't already.
3. Be Careful with Mouthwash
Many dentists recommend using mouthwash after brushing your teeth to prevent gum disease, but this can present a unique problem for many women. Most mouthwashes contain a small amount of alcohol, which must be avoided at all costs during pregnancy. If you'd like to add mouthwash to your routine, stay safe by using natural or alcohol-free labelled products. For those who are extra cautious, try making your own mouthwash with herbs steeped in boiled water.
4. Tackle Morning Sickness Effects
Aside from the uncomfortable effects of morning sickness, the vomiting can also damage your teeth. When you're sick, gastric acid from your stomach enters your mouth. Acid is harmful to your oral health, so you'll want to minimise the time it spends in your mouth. After vomiting, rinse your mouth immediately with water. Wait one hour before brushing your teeth, as they'll be weakened temporarily by coming into contact with acid, and brushing could exacerbate this.