The mouth is the gateway to the health of the rest of your body. During pregnancy, a mother’s oral health can directly affect the baby’s. Expecting mothers need to pay close attention to what they eat and how they take care of their teeth to improve the dental health of the child. Learn what steps to take now to help your baby’s teeth and gums become strong and healthy in the future.
The Connection Between a Mother and Baby’s Oral Health
Pregnant women can experience more problems with their gums than non-pregnant women. The increase in estrogen and progesterone can increase how the gum tissues react to plaque. Plaque can easily irritate the gums, making them swollen, sensitive, or prone to bleeding. Pregnancy especially exacerbates plaque-related gum problems in the first trimester. During this time, take special care of your gums and look out for common pregnancy-related oral problems, such as gingivitis. Excess plaque can lead to gum disease if the mother isn’t careful – something that can pass on to the baby.
Excessive bacteria in your mouth – including plaque buildup – enter your bloodstream through your gums. If this happens, the bacteria can travel to the uterus and affect your baby. A baby’s teeth start to develop between the third and sixth months of pregnancy – so it is important for mom to take care of her teeth. Bacteria can result in the production of prostaglandins – chemicals that may cause premature labor and low birth weight babies. Prostaglandins are part of the body’s inflammatory response system to bacteria, and, unfortunately, they are not good for your baby. During your pregnancy, brush at least twice a day, floss daily, and see your dentist regularly to help avoid oral-related pregnancy issues. Your dentist can help you understand unique risks during pregnancy, and give you tips for how to prevent passing problems on to your child.
Mom’s bacteria can also be passed on to a newborn baby and affect the baby’s oral health for the rest of their life! Oral bacteria, or “bugs,” are contagious, like the flu. Oral bugs in a mother can transfer to the baby’s mouth, resulting in oral issues right from birth. If a mother – or even a father – has bad oral hygiene, the child will likely have lifelong dental health problems. It is important for moms (and dads) to get regular check-ups with their dentist to give your baby the best chance at keeping their teeth for a lifetime.