There are some frightening statistics about the availability of or access to critical dental health care during pregnancy for some groups of women. Younger women, women from families of lower socioeconomic status, women of non-Hispanic black descent, women from Mexican-American families, and women with little education are among those most likely to not receive adequate dental care before and during their pregnancy.
Why Women Don’t Receive Prenatal Dental Care
There are a number of reasons for this lack of adequate dental care. First and foremost, these women may come from a background where dental care is not emphasized as important or necessary. This can be compounded by lack of income, lack of access to private dental insurance, and lack of education about health and wellness. Also, it’s important to remember that pregnant women are often intensely scheduled with appointments. They may be overwhelmed by the number of appointments and check-ups they are expected to have. In some cases, the reason is financial. They may not realize that, even if they don’t have private dental insurance, their Medicaid may cover some basic dental health services, depending on their plan and locality. They may also not know that many dental offices offer financing and payment plans, which can make dental care much more affordable.
Why Pregnant Women Need Prenatal Dental Care
There are a number of important reasons why pregnant women should make a point of having regular dental care during their pregnancy. The first is that a dentist can spot and help remedy an infection that could pose a threat to the health of the woman as well as her unborn baby. While pregnant, a woman’s body changes in a variety of ways, including her internal chemicals and hormones. The changes she experiences put her at increased risk of developing gum infections and periodontal disease, as well as gums that bleed easily due to pregnancy gingivitis.
Those oral infections, which probably seem minor compared to other possible pregnancy complications, are actually strongly associated with premature birth and low birth weight in infants whose mothers don’t address them quickly.
Not only can a dental appointment during pregnancy help treat or prevent oral health issues during pregnancy, they can be educational experiences for the soon-to-be-mother. Many cultures engage in tooth-destroying practices while caring for infants, such as adding sugar to formula or store-bought milk, giving bottles full of sugar-added juices, or not teaching toddlers to brush their teeth because they erroneously believe the health of baby teeth, which eventually fall out, will not impact the adult teeth and oral health of their child.
Don’t Lose a Tooth for Every Baby You Have!
People used to believe that in many cases, a woman would lose a tooth per child she gave birth to. This belief was no doubt rooted in a lack of understanding about the developing fetus’ need for calcium and other key nutrients that ensure a healthy mouth and body. Additionally, as mentioned above, hormone changes throughout pregnancy can result in increased risk of developing periodontal disease and bleeding gums during pregnancy, called pregnancy gingivitis.
Before modern medicine and access to adequate nutrition (and information about nutrition and pregnancy), women would not have been supplementing their calcium intake, brushing their teeth, or regularly flossing. Because of the lack of education and essential health and nutritional support during pregnancy, such terrible, long-term oral health impacts were not uncommon. These days, however, with advances in medical, nutritional, and dental care, there is no reason why a woman’s oral health should suffer due to her decision to have a child. Similarly, there is no reason why her child should be subject to increased risk of negative birth outcomes, such as premature labor and delivery or very low birth weight.
How to Be Proactive About Dental Health During Pregnancy
If possible, it is best for a woman to visit the dentist before she and her partner begin trying to conceive a child. That way, the dentist is able to check her thoroughly for gum and tooth health, deal with any major issues that may require medication or sedation prior to pregnancy, and help her deal with and resolve any existing infections. Of course, not all pregnancies are perfectly planned. If you’re already pregnant, make an appointment with a local dentist, such as the professionals at Avila Dental, today! Our dental team can help you take proactive care of your oral health and minimize any potential negative impact on your pregnancy.
There are many changes to how dental health is managed versus a few decades ago. Dentists can even, with the right equipment, safely administer oral X-rays to examine the health of teeth during pregnancy. While it is always preferable to have any major dental health issues addressed before pregnancy, expert dental care professionals, like the staff at Avila Dental, can perform a wide variety of dental and oral health care procedures while prioritizing the safety of both mother and child. Don’t gamble with your prenatal health; call and schedule a prenatal oral exam today!