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Why are perinatal dental checkups important?
Pregnancy is an exciting time. It is also a crucially important time for the unborn child’s oral and overall health. The “perinatal” period begins approximately 20-28 weeks into the pregnancy, and ends 1-4 weeks after the infant is born. With so much to do to prepare for the new arrival, a dental checkup is often the last thing on an expectant mother’s mind.
Research shows, however, that there are links between maternal periodontal disease (gum disease) and premature babies, babies with low birth weight, maternal preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes. It is of paramount importance therefore, for mothers to maintain excellent oral health throughout the entire pregnancy.
Maternal cariogenic bacteria is linked with a wide range of adverse outcomes for infants and young children. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) advises expectant mothers to get dental checkups and counseling regularly, for the purposes of prevention, intervention, and treatment.
Here are some perinatal oral care tips for expectant mothers:
Brush and floss – Be sure to use an ADA approved, fluoridated toothpaste at least twice each day, and floss at least once each day, to eliminate harmful oral bacteria. In addition, an alcohol-free mouthwash should be used on a daily basis.
Chew gum – Xylitol, a natural substance, has been shown to reduce infant and toddler caries (cavities) when chewed 3-5 times daily by the expectant mother. When choosing gum, check for the “xylitol” ingredient – no other sugar substitute has proven to be beneficial in clinical studies.
Diet evaluation – Maintaining a balanced, nourishing diet is always important, but particularly so during pregnancy. Make a food eating diary and look for ways to cut down on sugary and starchy foods. Sugars and starches provide food for oral bacteria, and also increase the risk of tooth decay.
Make regular dental appointments – When seen regularly, the dentist can bolster homecare preventative efforts and provide excellent advice. The dentist is able to check the general condition of teeth and provide strategies for reducing oral bacteria.