Dental Care Crucial for Expectant Mothers

***UPDATED: May 17, 2016*** According to a recent survey, more pregnant women in the United States are going to the dentist. In 2015, 57.5% of expectant mothers reported visiting their dentist, compared to 63% in 2016. This is very positive news as oral health issues have a heightened risk of occurring during pregnancy, despite a common misconception that dental visits are actually discouraged while pregnant. Of those who went, 37% reported that it was for a routine checkup, while 13% said they wanted to address a certain oral health issue. For more information about oral health during pregnancy, visit MouthHealthy.org/pregnancy.

It is a common misconception that once pregnant, it is not safe for a woman to visit the dentist.  While it’s true that having a dental x-ray may not be the best idea, continuing to practice good oral hygiene, including visiting your dentist regularly, is, according to the article, “Dental care important to healthy pregnancy,” published in the Daily Camera out of Boulder, Colorado.  In her piece, author Cara DeGette details recent research that has shown that pregnant women are more susceptible to gum disease, which can actually put the health of their unborn child at risk.

Research completed over the last decade has found associations between gum disease and many other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.  Additionally, Pamela McClain, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, claims that many studies have shown that pregnant women, due to an increase in the hormone progesterone, are at risk of contracting gum disease. When left untreated, it can cause periodontal disease, making them two to four times more likely to deliver babies pre-term.  While the percentage of premature deliveries to mother’s with poor oral hygiene is small, McClain states that underweight and premature babies are more likely to have mother’s with periodontal disease.  Additionally, Jeff Kahl, a pediatric dentist in Colorado Springs, claims that mothers can easily share unhealthy oral bacteria with their babies, which may contribute to the recent increase of dental issues among toddlers.  Kahl believes that good oral hygiene practiced by women who are expecting could help to lower the amount of such cases.

Currently, a bill is being considered in the state of Colorado that would extend dental health care to women on Medicaid who are pregnant or have recently given birth.  The bill passed the Senate Health and Human Services committee in late March, with the support of Democrats, while most Republicans oppose it.  While both parties believe it’s a great idea, Republicans are not too crazy about the cost, which is estimated around $3.5 million in the first year, and $10.3 million the following year.  At a time when many are trying to cut federal spending, a new bill with that kind of price tag is going to have a tough time in legislation.  While many politicians’ focus is on the immediate cost, both Kahl and McClain argue that the money will easily be made back in the long term through preventative care, not to mention the huge savings that could be associated with fewer premature births.  The future of this particular bill may be undetermined, but there are related facts that you can be sure of.   Brushing your teeth at least twice a day, coupled with flossing and regular trips to your dentist, is still the best way to protect yourself from oral disease and promote overall wellness.

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