It is important for women who are pregnant to maintain their overall periodontal health during pregnancy for the sake of themselves and their babies and new clinical recommendations from the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) and the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP) also advise pregnant women to maintain their periodontal health. The AAP and EFP have made these recommendations based on research that suggests that pregnant women with periodontal disease are more likely to give birth to a pre-term or low birth weight baby.
Periodontal Health During Pregnancy
Periodontal disease is an inflammatory gum disease caused by bacteria that attack the gum tissue as well as the bone and teeth if left untreated. In severe cases, this disease can result in tooth loss and it has even been linked to other diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
According to Dr. Nancy L. Newhouse, DDS, President of the AAP, “Tenderness, redness, or swollen gums are a few indications of periodontal disease,” as well as “gums that are pulling away from the teeth, bad breath, and loose teeth.” She warns that, “These signs, especially during pregnancy, should not be ignored and may require treatment from a dental professional.”
There have been several studies conducted with research that suggests that women with periodontal disease are more likely to have a low birth weight baby or give birth prematurely than women without the disease. Babies that are born at least three weeks premature or at a birth weight below 5.5 pounds may suffer long term complications such as delayed motor skills, social growth, or learning disabilities as well as respiratory problems or feeding and digestive problems. The AAP and EFP have released clinical recommendations, published in both the Journal of Periodontology and the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, that act as a guide for dental and medical professionals to consult when treating periodontal disease in pregnant women. According to the recommendations, it is safe for pregnant women to undergo non-surgical periodontal therapy to improve their oral health.
“Routine brushing and flossing, and seeing a periodontist, dentist, or dental hygienist for a comprehensive periodontal evaluation during pregnancy may decrease the chance of adverse pregnancy complications,” claims Dr. Newhouse. “It is important for expectant mothers to monitor their periodontal health and to have a conversation with their periodontist or dentist about the most appropriate care. By maintaining your periodontal health, you are not only supporting your overall health, but also helping ensure a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.”