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Lucy Stock is a columnist for the Irish News

Can Giving Birth Affect Oral Health?

by Lucy Stock BDS DipImpDent RCS (Eng)

Published in the Irish News . 09.10.2013

Is “A tooth lost for every child,” really just an old wives tale?

Women are often convinced that having babies has affected their teeth in ways such as causing them to soften and decay or to become loose and fall out. Pregnant women are more prone to diseases such as gum infections but it doesn’t mean that we should just accept this as a foregone conclusion and just let the gum disease take hold and the teeth fall out. Apart from keeping the mums teeth and gums healthy, pregnant women who look after their gums can also greatly benefit the unborn baby.

New clinical recommendations from the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) and the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP) are urging pregnant women to maintain their gum health. Research from the two associations has indicated that women with gum disease may be at risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as giving birth to a pre-term or low-birth weight baby.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), babies with a birth weight of less than 5.5 pounds may be at risk of long-term health problems such as delayed motor skills, social growth, or learning disabilities. Similar complications are true for babies born at least three weeks earlier than its due date. Other issues associated with pre-term birth include respiratory problems, vision and hearing loss, or feeding and digestive problems.

So how does gum disease affect when a women goes into labour? In the normal birthing process, the body of the pregnant woman produces substances which act as “regulators” of the different processes involved with giving birth. At the normal time for birth for each woman, the accumulation of the “regulators” then serves as a signal for labour to begin. These “regulators”, some of which are called prostaglandins, can be produced by gum disease as well as other diseases. So the gum disease can cause more regulators to build up, reaching the critical level early and starting labour.

If you are pregnant and suspect that you have gum disease then ask your dentist about ways to manage it.

The 5 signs of gum disease: