In February, the American Dental Association sponsors a public awareness programs emphasizing the importance of oral health.
Pregnancy can be stressful for a woman's teeth and gums. The hormone progesterone increases during pregnancy. Progesterone is important for the mother to maintain the pregnancy, but it also makes her vulnerable to developing a disease called gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums.
The important thing to keep in mind is that gingivitis is preventable in many cases. The other important thing to keep in mind is that it is serious. It can lead to miscarriage and premature labor.
Gingivitis is typically caused by a buildup of bacterial plaque on the teeth. When this plaque is not routinely removed it forms a substance called tartar. Tartar then traps bacteria, which then causes the gingivitis. When tartar is not removed by regular cleaning it can lead to the destruction of the connective tissue that holds our teeth in place.
So how do you prevent gingivitis? Flossing daily is a must. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day. A soft brush is preferable over a harder brush. Toothpaste with fluoride is preferred. It is important to replace your toothbrush monthly as bacteria can grow on the bristles. Many people like to follow the brushing with an antiseptic mouthwash. All of this is important, but nothing can replace getting your teeth professionally cleaned, preferably every six months.
Oral health for babies is also important. As teeth start to erupt through the gums parents should wipe the teeth with a wet washcloth or clean gauze pad. When the teeth come through parents can also brush those precious teeth with a little water. The baby or primary teeth are very important as they help babies chew, pronounce words as they begin speak, and help hold a space in the jaw for the permanent teeth. If the primary teeth decay it can lead to damage of the permanent teeth before they even get to make an appearance. Not to mention the pain the baby will experience if there is an infection in his mouth. The leading cause of baby teeth decay is be exposed to sugary liquids for long periods of time, usually through a bottle.
When my children were little I used to sing to them a song that went to the music of "Row, Row, Row, Your Boat." It went like this: "Brush, brush, brush your teeth, brush them every day 'cause if you take good care of them, your smile won't go away."
Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital's Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.