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Poor oral health during pregnancy can cause harm to child

Posted March 7

Making an appointment to visit the dentist might not be at the top of your to-do list during pregnancy, especially between running to the toilet, napping, dreaming of chubby cheeks and getting poked in the ribs by tiny, precious elbows, but dental visits should be an important part of prenatal care.

This story was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Dental Society.

Every mother worries about how to lead a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy.

While she'll usually think of eating well, staying active, drinking water and getting enough sleep, she might end up neglecting a crucial element of her health: her teeth.

Following these tips will help you keep your mouth and your baby healthy for the next nine months.

Chew Sugarless Gum

"If you're looking for a way to curb pregnancy cravings for sugary treats, or if you are plagued by a persistent case of pregnancy dry mouth, try chewing sugarless gum with xylitol or xylitol-sweetened lollipops," said Dr. Catherine Bickley in Mooresville, N.C.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar with "40 percent fewer calories than sugar and has been shown to prevent tooth decay," according to whattoexpect.com.

Chewing gum stimulates saliva production, which can bathe your teeth in protection from tooth decay.

Prevent and Treat Dental Caries

Mothers who have poor oral health during pregnancy increase their children's risk of developing tooth and bone decay or cavities, as well.

"Babies are born without any ... harmful bacteria in their mouth, and studies have proven that moms (rather than dads) typically infect their children before age 2," according to Parents Magazine.

If you don't take care of your teeth while you are pregnant, you're likely to transfer those germs to your baby right away, which can be harmful to their teeth, even before they've erupted from your baby's gums.

Additionally, once baby is born, avoid sharing utensils or eating from the same plate to protect your baby's mouth from adult decay-causing bacteria.

Swish with Baking Soda After Vomiting

Morning sickness isn't just hard on your stomach, it takes a toll on your teeth as well.

The acid from repeated vomiting will wear away at the enamel on your teeth, making you susceptible to tooth decay.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends dissolving one teaspoon of baking soda in one cup of water to make a rinse, or using antacids.

Avoid brushing teeth immediately after vomiting because your enamel will be soft, and brushing right away could cause further damage.

Schedule Regular Dental Visits

Making an appointment to visit the dentist might not be at the top of your to-do list during pregnancy, especially between running to the toilet, napping, dreaming of chubby cheeks and getting poked in the ribs by tiny, precious elbows, but dental visits should be an important part of prenatal care.

Pregnancy can exacerbate existing dental conditions, such as gingivitis and periodontitis, according to research published by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Researchers have "identified 24 studies demonstrating a positive relationship between periodontitis and preterm birth, low birth weight or both," the research said.

"Periodontitis is an especially serious disorder characterized by severe gum inflammation and loosening teeth," Bickley explained. "As an expectant mother’s infection worsens, bacteria associated with it can migrate into the bloodstream and eventually into the amniotic fluid of a woman's uterus."

An hour in a dentist's chair will reassure you that you're doing all you can to invest in your baby's health.

This story was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Dental Society.

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