Pregnant? Watch your mouth!

Expecting mothers have a lot to concern themselves with, including proper diet, exercise and limiting their environmental exposure risks. With so much to pay attention to, there's another threat that often slips right under the radar: oral health. Oral health is important for all individuals, but Mitchel Senft, D.M.D., D.I.C.O.I., told The Palm Beach Post that pregnant women need to be even more vigilant about maintaining it because their heightened hormone levels put them at greater risk for periodontal disease, also known as gum disease.

Why is oral health important?
The Mayo Clinic stated that oral health is like "a window into your overall health." One reason is because your mouth is full of billions of bacteria. Most of these are good bacteria, which your body needs to facilitate the healthy breakdown of food. However, if these bacteria get out of whack, it can lead to mouth infections. This can cause serious complications in individuals who suffer from diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other conditions in which immunity is lowered. Poor gum health has also been linked to heart disease, and may be a contributing factor.

How can gum disease affect my pregnancy?
For pregnant mothers, the risk of infection is always dangerous. Mothers can pass infections on to their unborn children, which may result in various birth complications and defects or interfere with baby development. It's also been linked to miscarriage.

Poor oral health resulting in periodontal disease is thought to have a relationship with hypertension, or high blood pressure, which may cause preeclampsia. Preeclampsia during labor is often fatal.

Gum disease in pregnant women has also been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.

Detecting gum disease
Signs of gum disease include swollen or inflamed gums, which may turn dark or bright red in color. They may feel extremely sensitive and even painful. Gums that appear to be receding may also be affected with periodontal disease.

Bleeding gums may also be a sign, however, some women report bleeding gums as a sign of pregnancy as well. In either case, open wounds or sores in the mouth present the danger of infection and should be treated.

How to treat gum disease
If you think you have gum disease, talk to a dental professional as soon as possible. Make sure to brush your teeth - including your gums -  2 to 3 times each day. Flossing may also help by preventing the buildup of bacteria on or near the gum line. You should also use an antiseptic mouthwash.

Some women choose to visit their dentist every couple of months while they're pregnant to prevent the disease or correct it as soon as possible. A thorough dental cleaning will usually solve the issue as long as you follow the dentist's instructions after the procedure.

Do you think it's a good idea to visit the dentist more often during pregnancy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!