This is Women’s Health Month, and it’s a good time for a reminder that women should have an annual wellness visit with their doctor AND visit their dentist. Even women who are pregnant. Even anyone who wears dentures.
The reasons are not ONLY for good oral health, but for the rest of your body’s health as well.
"Inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases and affects both physical health and oral health," says Sherry Edwards, DDS, CareOregon dental director. And that’s true whether your teeth are the ones you’ve had since youth, or those you purchased later in life.
And both regular and emergency dental care during pregnancy are not only safe, they are recommended, and important for a woman and her developing baby.
Oral health and pregnancy
"Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause your gums to bleed easily, swell or both,” says Dr. Edwards. “These are signs of inflammation due to pregnancy, gingivitis or gum disease.”
Oral infection and inflammation during pregnancy may be linked to premature, low birth-weight babies, and dental cleanings to treat these contribute to decreased risk of pre-term birth. For the mother, the acid associated with morning sickness can lead to wearing away (erosion) of tooth enamel and dental decay.
Here’s what a dentist can do:
- Check for cavities and gum disease. These conditions may be present even if there are no symptoms.
- Provide information on how to prevent dental problems, such as gum disease and cavities.
- Provide care to keep your mouth healthy.
Here is what a woman can do during pregnancy to take care of her mouth, and to protect her baby:
- Make and keep regular dental appointments.
- Good oral hygiene is important, so brush teeth twice every day and floss daily.
- Limit foods containing sugar to mealtimes only. Frequent snacking on foods high in sugar can cause cavities.
- Choose water as a beverage; avoid carbonated beverages.
- Choose fruit rather than fruit juice.
- Prevent damage to your teeth after getting morning sickness by rinsing the mouth with 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water.
Oral health and newborns
“After your baby is born, your oral health can still affect your baby,” Dr. Edwards says. “Dental decay is a transmissible disease that can be prevented.”
- Bacteria that causes dental decay can be passed from mother to child by kissing, sharing utensils or cleaning off a pacifier with her mouth.
- Children are more than three times as likely to have tooth decay if their mothers have high levels of untreated tooth decay.
- Treating dental decay can lower the bacteria in a woman’s mouth and can delay or prevent the transmission of these bacteria to her baby. This could mean less early childhood decay for the baby.
To take care of a baby’s oral health, a parent can:
- After feeding, wipe baby’s teeth with a soft cloth or soft bristled toothbrush.
- Avoid putting child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup containing anything other than water.
- Avoid saliva-sharing behaviors, such as sharing a spoon when tasting baby food or cleaning a dropped pacifier by mouth.
- Visit a dentist. A child’s first visit with a dentist should be when the child between 6 and 12 months old.
Oral and physical health links
For everyone — men, women, women who are expecting and people with dentures — there are important reasons for getting that annual dental visit.
People with periodontal disease have a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Periodontal disease in people with RA is more severe when compared to people without RA, while dental cleanings have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the signs and symptoms of RA.
Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease affecting people with diabetes.
"Periodontal disease can cause blood sugar levels to get out of control, and if blood sugar levels are high, gum disease can flare up,” Dr. Edwards says. “Dental cleanings can help control blood sugar levels and improve overall health.”
For people who are being treated for high blood pressure (hypertension), good periodontal health is associated with better systolic blood pressure and lower odds of treatment failure.
Studies have shown a clear link between more severe periodontal disease and increased risk of stroke.
And if you’re being treated for a disease, that’s another reason to see the dentist.
“Saliva protects teeth,” Dr. Edwards says. “Medications used to treat many diseases can decrease saliva. This can cause dry mouth. Dry mouth leads to a higher risk of cavities.”
The benefits of an annual dental visit — for everyone
- Your dentist will check for cavities and gum disease, which may be present even if you can detect no symptoms.
- You’ll get information on how to treat problems such as gum disease, cavities and dry mouth.
- You’ll receive care to keep your mouth healthy.
- Your dentist will check for oral cancer, even if you have dentures. It’s estimated there are more than 50,000 new cases a year.
- If you have dentures, your dentist will check their fit.
“A once a year check up with the dentist is just as important if you have dentures or if you have teeth,” Dr. Edwards says.
Oral health and pregnancy https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/dental-health-during-pregnancy.aspx
Baby’s first dental visit https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=a-childs-first-dental-visit-fact-sheet-1-1509
Oral and physical health https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475
Oral health and dentures https://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-you/oral-health/7-rules-for-denture-care/
Where can I find information on my Columbia Pacific CCO dental benefits? http://colpachealth.org/for-members/dental-health-resources
Who is my dental provider? Your dental care provider is on your Oregon Health Plan ID Card. The ID Card for Columbia Pacific CCO is shown here.