Thinking about getting pregnant? Congratulations!! That is SO exciting!! And whether you're one day out, one month out, or one year out from your attempts at conception, educating yourself and becoming an informed advocate for your health and the health of your future baby is a tremendous first step in your future role as a mother.
While there is a ton of great information out there, you can't be an expert on it all. This is why partnering with various healthcare providers will help guide you along a balanced pathway to a happy and healthy mommy AND baby. Below are some reasons why you might want to consider adding a trusted dentist to your pre-pregnancy prep team.
(1) Maximizing Your zzzz's While You Still Can: The Importance of a Comprehensive Airway & Sleep Health Evaluation
A new study out of UCSF looked at records for almost 3 million births and found that when compared with women who have no sleep problems, women with insomnia were 30 percent more likely to have a preterm birth (before 37 weeks), while 5 percent delivered before 34 weeks. In addition, 40 percent of women with sleep apnea delivered preterm. The study, which was published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, stated that worldwide, preterm birth is the leading cause of death for children under the age of five.
Now how does this relate to a pre-pregnancy dental visit? Well, airway deficiencies and sleep disordered breathing are not only exceedingly common, but more often than not, these conditions go undiagnosed and untreated. Deficient sleep relative to what a body needs can lead to the following:
- Decreased antibody production, thus increasing chronic inflammatory responses and susceptibility to infection or disease
- Increased beta-amyloid plaque formation between brain cells; this is the plaque seen in brains that suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's disease
- Disrupted endocrine system, leading to reduced insulin production, increased gremlin (appetite stimulating hormone), and leptin (hunger inhibition hormone)
- Increase in BMI with higher likelihood of obesity
(2) Swollen, Bloody Gums: Doesn't Pregnancy Just Sound Like So Much Fun? ;)
Pregnancy-related inflammation of the gum tissue has had increased attention since the 1960s. Research has shown that this increase in gingivitis and periodontitis is not due to a mother's negligent oral hygiene but instead is due to a change in the sub gingival microbiota and immunologic physiological mediations in periodontal tissue.
Because we know with certainty that pregnant mothers are predisposed to this increased inflammation, it is important to have a pre-pregnancy evaluation to restore periodontal health in the case that there is disease present, such that the condition does not worsen to an irreversible state during pregnancy. In the case that the mother demonstrates ideal oral health pre-pregnancy, it is preferred to establish that baseline so that you can maintain good health throughout pregnancy, and if inflammation is to occur, it is less concerning because you and your doctor know that it is pregnancy induced and will likely return to normal postpartum.
(3) Emergency Prevention: Dental Restoration Stabilization Check
As often as we can, we don't want to take X-rays, prescribe antibiotics or pain medication, or perform procedures on a pregnant women. For that reason, it's important to check all previously placed fillings, crowns, root canals, implants, etc. to ensure there is no evidence of underlying complications or lingering issues. A scenario we dentists would very much like to avoid is having a pregnant woman show up to our office who hasn't been to the dentist in years with a swollen cheek and a horrible tooth ache. Taking X-rays, anesthetizing, performing a procedure, or prescribing post-treatment medications can be done in emergent situations but introduce risk to the mother and the baby.
Because most all dental issues are preventable, a pre-pregnancy dental check up is the best way to avoid these higher risk situations. And in the rare case that you do experience a dental emergency during your pregnancy, it's always best to have data from a recent check up to use when diagnosing and determining a plan of action.
(4) Mommy-Baby Education: A Plan for Health vs. Waiting for Disease
I understand firsthand what it's like to be a new mom and a mom to multiple children. The OBGYN and the pediatrician have a LOT of information to tackle with a mom, and they do a spectacular job covering so much in the time they spend managing a mom's care. These physicians typically do not stay as up-to-date as a dentist on the latest research associated with dental and oral health. So while they have their patient's best interest in mind, adding another expert to your healthcare team will only enhance your preparedness. I'm a firm believer in the adage "you don't know what you don't know"; so getting that education early will only bolster a healthy pregnancy.
The dentist has expertise in oral hygiene for babies, breastfeeding/ bottles/
(5) Treat Yo Self: Last Call for Mommy-Only Appointments
Do you have a discolored filling that drives you crazy? Are you a coffee-holic that relies on regular teeth bleaching so that it doesn't look like you're wearing George Washington's wooden dentures? Well, you need to address those concerns NOW. Because once you are pregnant, you are only getting the bare minimum teeth cleanings unless an emergency arises. And let's be honest, once you have the baby, days in which you find the time to take a shower alone is like a special surprise from the heavens; so having an available window to go to the dentist by yourself for a nagging dental issue is unlikely post-baby.
Beyond that and what I've learned through four pregnancies of my own and hundreds of pregnancies with my patients, one of my most favorite recommendations to soon-to-be moms is to whiten their teeth (after they've achieved optimal oral health, of course). Because when your ankles are so swollen the only shoes you can wear to work are your Birkenstock sandals, or you're too out of breath to put your hair up in a ponytail, it's nice to at least have a shiny, white smile. Call it vanity, fine. I don't care. Growing a human from scratch is hard. So I don't see anything wrong doing a few things "just for mom" to make it a little bit easier ;) Now is the time to treat yoself, girl!
(6) Setting Your Baby Up for Success: Moms who have a pre-pregnancy dental check up have a higher likelihood of delivering prettier, smarter babies than those who avoid the dentist
This is a joke, of course. Not to make light of the other advice I gave, but I include this to remind moms or soon-to-be moms that there's a lot of information out there. Try to keep a sense of humor about it all. I can't emphasize enough the importance of being kind to yourself and patient with the process. Your dentist and your other healthcare providers are here to help educate and support you, so I recommend you seek out providers who partner with you in finding the right balance with all the info that best works for you and your family.
Because let's be honest, if you're reading an article about how your pre-pregnancy oral health can help improve the life of your baby that does not even exist yet, I'd say you're probably going to be an awesome mom.
Have questions? We'd love to help!! Call us at 214-368-0900 or comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'd be happy to support you on this exciting journey. Or if you're in the DFW area, I loved to partner with you and your family as your dentist through this exciting new chapter!