Healthy teeth and gums important during pregnancy

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health), May 6 - The American Dental Association (ADA) is reminding mothers-to-be about the importance of maintaining good oral health during pregnancy.

"There is a lot of research that shows a possible correlation between having untreated gum disease and a higher risk of having a preterm, low birth weight baby," Dr. Sally Cram, ADA consumer advisor noted in a telephone interview with Reuters Health.

In addition, pregnant women with gum disease may be more likely to develop pregnancy-related (i.e., gestational) diabetes. This is a concern, said Cram, a periodontist in Washington, DC, "because women who develop diabetes during pregnancy often have a lot of problems with the birth; the baby is often overweight and the mother may get high blood pressure, which can be very risky for both mother and fetus." Gestational diabetes often leads to preterm birth.

"If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you should schedule a dental checkup to be sure you don't have brewing infection and gum inflammation," Cram advised.

Eating a well-balanced diet, brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least once a day is also important, according to Cram. The ADA recommends consumers use dental care products that have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Pregnant women often crave sugary food and beverages, which can lead to cavities.

Don't be surprised if your dentist recommends more frequent cleanings during pregnancy, Cram added. For a woman with a history of gum disease or problems, "your dentist may recommend that you have your teeth cleaned every two or three months during the pregnancy," she noted.

Rising hormone levels that accompany pregnancy can irritate gums already battling gum disease and make it worse. "When the hormones get really high during pregnancy, some women are more susceptible to what we call pregnancy gingivitis, which is real severe inflammation in their gums.

More information about pregnancy and oral health can be found at the American Dental Association's Web site --

By Megan Rauscher

Last Updated: 2008-05-06 10:41:28 -0400 (Reuters Health)

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