Chapel Hill, N.C. — Seeing a dentist regularly is a good idea for everyone – especially for pregnant women.
Gianna Marini is about a month away from having her first child. She doesn't neglect seeing her doctor or getting regular dental care.
"I just think that your overall health starts with your oral health," Marini said.
Doctors and dentists have not always taken advantage of that connection.
"We've been trying to promote dental care in our pregnant patients," said Dr. Alice Chuang of UNC Obstetrics and Gynecology. "As an OB-GYN, it's definitely not a topic I was taught to frequently address with patients."
That's why UNC's medical and dental schools are collaborating on a new program with pregnant patients, promoting oral health as it relates to the baby's health.
Fourth year UNC dental student Lindsay Carlton says her pregnant patients are very interested in the facts she shares about periodontal disease. It increases the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight, and it can cause problems later.
"Once the baby is already born, within the first 6 to 12 months, the mom can pass certain bacteria that's in her mouth physically to the baby," Carlton said.
Some pregnant women actually decide to put off seeing their dentist until after the baby is born, but that's bad advice.
"Pregnant women tend to have some more gum problems and sometimes they'll have more decay problems," said Scott Eidson, an associate professor of dentistry at UNC.
These visits are also a great time to promote regular brushing and flossing at home, which, if followed, are more likely to be passed on to the next generation.