Avoiding Premature Birth Starts With Your Gums

Posted on: 21 May 2015

If you're trying to get pregnant or are already expecting, you undoubtedly want to do everything you can to make your pregnancy go smoothly. Surprisingly, taking care of your teeth is one of the things that can help. This guide will explain why your dental health can affect the health of your child, and what you can do to improve upon it.

Gum Disease

Did you know that up to 75% of Americans may have gum disease, including you? Gum disease in its early form, gingivitis, often doesn't have very many noticeable symptoms. It's easy to overlook until it becomes the more severe form of gum disease, periodontitis.

Periodontitis is a nasty disease that can cause receding gums, permanent damage to gum tissue, and even destroy the roots of your teeth, causing them to fall out. Unfortunately, the damage done by periodontitis can't be reversed, so gum disease before it ever gets to that stage is wise. However, there's another reason for you to care about whether your gums are healthy: it can affect the health of your baby.

Increased Risk Of Premature Birth

While it may seem hard to believe, the health of your gums can potentially affect how long you carry your child. A recent study found that women with periodontal disease are 2.8 times more likely to experience premature labor and give birth to their child before their due date.

Scientists believe that the reason for this is that a severe infection isn't simply limited to the original site of the infection. The entire body is exposed to proinflammatory cytokines, which travel through the blood supply, creating inflammation and irritation wherever they go. Before long, your body will be on full-alert, trying to fight the infection at the source and to reduce the inflammation all over your body.

Unfortunately, whether it's the immune system's response to the infection or simply a byproduct of the inflammation, this often results in premature labor.

Avoiding Or Repairing The Problem

Thankfully, whether you're pregnant already or plan to be, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of dental disease-induced premature labor. See a dentist as soon as possible, and have any existing problems with your teeth and gums treated. If your dentist detects gum disease, plan on knuckling down and improving your oral health regimen at home. It can be a chore, but brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day will help to reverse early-stage gum disease or prevent it if you don't already have it.

Additionally, make sure to have a dental checkup during your second trimester. This is the ideal time to see a dentist, as your child isn't in a particularly critical stage of development.

Finding ways to help your baby to have a healthy life can start before you even get pregnant. By protecting your oral health, you're also protecting your child's development.