Pregnancy and Oral Health
Oral infections, hormonal changes, pregnancy symptoms and diet changes can all affect the health of a mother and her baby. Maintaining good oral health during pregnancy can positively impact the health and the mother and her child.
Oral health can affect pregnancy in the following ways:
- Women who have an oral infection associated with their gums and teeth are more likely to deliver a pre-term or low weight baby. There is still research being conducted to find this exact relationship, but it is thought that bacteria from a mother’s mouth can spread to other parts of her body that provide nourishment and protection for her baby.
- Bacteria from a mother’s mouth can easily be transferred to her baby, putting her baby at risk for developing cavities. Ways bacteria can be passed to a child are by: kissing, sharing utensils , or when a mother puts her baby’s hands or pacifier in her mouth.
- A higher level of hormones in a pregnant mother can cause there to be more plaque in her mouth. During pregnancy, some mothers may have an excessive amount of plaque in their mouths, which may lead to gingivitis. Other symptoms may be redness, inflammation and bleeding, all of which usually disappear 3 to 6 months after delivery.
- Gum disease may also increase a mother’s risk for diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Nausea and vomiting can lead to the erosion of tooth enamel due to acid from the stomach. The weakening of enamel puts an individual at higher risk for cavities.
- Diet and a higher frequency of eating increases the risk for cavities, especially when consuming a greater amount of sugars and/or starches.
- Benign pregnancy tumors can be the cause of red or purple, painless growths in the mouth. These may sometimes exhibit spontaneous bleeding. Symptoms usually disappear after delivery.
Resources for Women:
- Using Mouthwash to Prevent Premature Birth
- Avoiding Germs During Pregnancy
- Oral Health and Pregnancy Tip Sheet
- Frequently Asked Questions about Pregnancy and Oral Health
Resources for Obstetric Providers:
- Smiles for Life: A National Oral Health Curriculum (Online CME Course)
- Oral Health During Pregnancy: A National Consensus Statement