Women who are pregnant or who are planning a pregnancy should include a dentist visit on their "to do" lists, say dentists.
"Many women believe that they should stay away from the dentist during pregnancy, but that's not exactly true," explains Ingrid Schroetter, D.D.S., a general dentist. "It is wise to avoid X-rays during pregnancy, but dental treatments usually occur without X-rays and if it's time to take the periodic X-rays, they can be postponed until after the pregnancy. Also, during the last trimester, going to the dentist can be uncomfortable for many women, but dental treatment can occur during the first and second trimester."
Many pregnant women experience periodontal disease in which gums become swollen, tender and inflamed. "If there is any sign of periodontal disease, pregnant women should get it treated before they deliver their babies."
A study published in the Journal of Periodontology reported that researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered a possible association between periodontal disease and the premature delivery of low-birth-weight babies. The study is important because it indicates that women who have periodontal disease and no other risk factors were more likely to deliver low-birth-weight babies.
"The good news is that periodontal disease is completely preventable," says Dr. Schroetter. "That's another reason why pregnant women need to make visits to their dentists."
Educating physicians is the next step, she says. "Physicians need to be educated about this possible link," she says. "Dental care should be included as part of the pre-natal care a woman receives."
Dr. Schroetter says that good oral hygiene habits play a part in the prevention of periodontal disease and can lessen the severity of periodontal disease that some women experience during pregnancy. "Brushing teeth, flossing and regular dental exams are important components for anyone's dental well-being," she concludes.
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