There are two major dental concerns for pregnant women -- avoiding dental emergencies and/or treatment in the last trimester and preventing periodontal (gum) disease.
If you are trying to become pregnant or have recently learned that you are, you should try to schedule a dental check-up and a prophylaxis (cleaning) within the first trimester. It is better to have dental work completed within the fourth to sixth month of pregnancy than to deal with potential complications from anesthesia, medication or extensive procedures during the last trimester. If you have a dental emergency in the third trimester, consult your obstetrician and call your dentist. Definitely postpone all elective procedures until after you give birth.
It is common for pregnant women to develop "pregnancy gingivitis." Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissues. It is characterized by redness, swelling, tenderness and bleeding. The primary cause is an increased level of hormones - especially estrogen and progesterone, which correlates with an increase in dental plaque (a sticky mixture of bacteria, food and debris). This condition starts to become evident in the second trimester. If you had gingivitis prior to your pregnancy, it will probably worsen. Left untreated, it could lead to bone loss around the teeth.
Pregnant women also risk developing "Pregnancy tumors" that are benign growths that arise out of swollen gums. Normally, the treatment is to leave them alone until they break on their own. However, if they interfere with eating or oral hygiene, they may have to be surgically removed.
Emerging evidence shows that periodontal disease may be a significant risk factor for pre-term, low-birthweight babies. Although more research is needed to confirm the direct association to pregnancy outcomes, expectant mothers are advised to be concerned about periodontitis as with all other infections.
To prevent or minimize "pregnancy gingivitis," take extra care and time with good brushing and flossing techniques to remove plaque. It is advisable to have a professional prophylaxis in the first or second trimester. Eat a good balanced diet, getting plenty of vitamins C and B12. Smokers should refrain from smoking for the entire pregnancy.
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