HMAA shares the importance of dental health for mom and baby

Healthy smiles lead to healthy babies

Sponsored by HMAA

The Hawaii Medical Assurance Association is all about wellness and benefits for its members. In today’s Mommy Moments, HI Now host Kanoe Gibson is chatting with Dr. Andrea Lee about the importance of good dental hygiene for pregnant moms and baby.

“Oral health is an important part of prenatal care because we know that there are definite links between a pregnant mother’s oral health and the health of the entire pregnancy — as well as the health of the baby,” Dr. Lee explains. “Bad oral health from the mother has been linked to pre-term labor and low birth weight in the baby.”

There have been recent studies that show oral bacteria from the pregnant mother that can circulate in her blood and amniotic fluid and end up eventually in her baby’s system. In addition, a woman’s body can react much more dramatically to normal oral findings, like plaque and calculus, so Dr. Lee always encourages fastidious oral health care during pregnancy.

The most common dental problem pregnant women face is pregnancy gingivitis, which is basically the term for inflammation of the gums. It is estimated that about 70 percent of pregnant women have pregnancy gingivitis. Because of a surge in hormones during pregnancy, specifically estrogen and progesterone, it can cause a woman’s gums to “overreact” to the normal presence of plaque and oral bacteria, leading to inflammation, which can cause gingivitis. This can sometimes progress to periodontitis, which is a disease of the bone and supporting structures of the teeth.

Some women may experience an even more exaggerated response to irritants like plaque or calculus and can develop a localized hypertrophy of the gingival tissue, called a pregnancy tumor. While it looks a little scary, it is basically harmless and usually goes away after birth.

Another thing that can affect expecting moms is when she suffers from morning sickness. Vomiting, especially all day, can cause your oral pH to become acidic, and this can cause an increase in erosion and cavities. The best thing for mothers to do is rinse well with water throughout the day and stay away from sugary drinks or foods. Stay hydrated, but obviously make good choices. ┬áThat’s why it’s important to keep up the oral hygiene during pregnancy: Brushing and flossing and going to get your teeth cleaned regularly. Most dental insurances will allow for an extra cleaning to be covered during pregnancy to help keep mom’s teeth and gums healthy during this sensitive time.

“Lots of times, expectant moms just don’t feel good or they are tired, and so they might slack off in taking care of their teeth,” Dr. Lee says. “But this can lead to more problems, so it is important to make oral care a prenatal priority.”

When it comes to taking care of your child’s teeth, Dr. Philip Nguyen recommends that parents take their child in to see the dentist at least by 12 months of age and also within six months after their first tooth has erupted. These initial appointments are great to help the child acclimate to the dental office environment, getting to know a few new faces, and helping to give the child a good impression of the dentist.

“Just getting the child to sit back and open their mouth is a great goal! From there, as the level of trust develops, we can get a polisher in and help to clean their teeth,” Dr. Nguyen says. “Other things we check for are abnormalities in the growth of the teeth or tissues.”

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