The importance of one’s oral health is gaining attention from the media after recent studies noted more evidence that Alzheimer’s disease and poor oral hygiene are linked. Led by the University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry, the study found bacteria in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients that could have stemmed from the same bacteria that cause bad breath, gum disease and tooth decay. But the association between oral health and overall wellbeing doesn’t end there. According to the August 2013 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, proper care of the teeth and gums is pertinent for pregnant women. The Committee Opinion piece published in the journal urges gynecologists to discuss oral health with patients for the health of themselves and their babies.
Between 2007 and 2009, 56 percent of women did not seek oral health checkups during pregnancy, and cost could play a role. Access to proper dental care procedures and treatments may have prevented some from visiting the dentist during this important time in their lives. Although there is no solid evidence that associates proper oral care with pregnancy issues, concerns still arise based on the potential of transmission of bacteria from mother to infants. A 1996 study found an association between periodontal disease and pre-term birth; however, large trials have not proved this conclusion.
It’s also likely that pregnancy can cause oral health issues, such as gum disease and tooth decay, due to an increased inflammatory response, greater consumption of acidic and sugary food and drink, and the teeth’s exposure to gastric acid from morning sickness. Pregnancy gingivitis, benign oral gingival lesions, tooth erosion, tooth mobility, dental caries and periodontitis are all common conditions in pregnant women.
According to the authors, “for many women, obstetrician-gynecologists are the most frequently accessed health care professional, which creates a unique opportunity to educate women throughout their lifespan, including during pregnancy, about the importance of dental care and good oral hygiene.”