It is without a doubt that the health of the mouth affects the health of the body and vice versa
Numerous studies have shown that people with serious gum disease are 40% more likely to have a chronic condition such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and some cancers
Given this fact, physicians are becoming more aware of the importance of oral health and are taking a more holistic approach to general health. The mouth is the gateway to the body, and the fact is that there is a bi-directional relationship between the mouth and the body.
Hartwell Dentistry understands that there is a strong relationship between the mouth and the body – so we will be writing a series of blogs to inform you of the different areas of the body how they are related to oral health.
Today’s blog will discuss pregnancy.
In order to understand how disease in the mouth can affect the body, it is important to know about the common diseases in the mouth: decay and gum disease.
DECAY (or caries):
Plaque is the yellow, cheesy substance around your teeth, which contains millions of bacteria. This biofilm is made of “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. Caries (more commonly called “decays”) are cavities, or “holes” which are formed in your teeth as a result of bacterial infection and imbalance. As more “bad” bacteria form, less “good” bacteria are present. The acidic nature of the biofilm causes minerals of the tooth to be lost until eventually a cavity forms
GUM DISEASE (gingivitis and periodontitis):
The gums are the foundation of the teeth.
If gums are in poor health, the teeth can become unstable which can lead to tooth loss. When people talk about gum disease, it is usually about gingivitis or periodontitis.
If plaque is not cleaned away from the teeth regularly, it builds up around the gums. If the plaque is not removed while it is still soft, it will become hard and become calculus (or tartar). This is like having a splinter in your finger – the plaque or calculus, like the splinter, irritates the gums. As a result, the gums become swollen, red and will likely bleed when you brush or floss your teeth.
Gingivitis is reversible, with professional care and adequate home care.
The gums lie on top of bone, which supports the teeth. As more plaque is deposited, the calculus continues to form so that it spreads under the gums, where the bone is. The gums will be swollen and bleeding as it was during the gingivitis stage – but the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis is that with periodontitis, the bone underneath the gums starts to break down.
Bone loss can occur to the point where the tooth loses its support, becomes loose, and possibly falls out. Bone loss is irreversible. Once bone is lost, the best outcome after treatment with the hygienist is to keep the bone level stable for as long as possible.
Once a hygienist removes the calculus, it allows for the gums to return back to health as long as the teeth and gums are kept clean.
PREGNANCY AND ORAL HEALTH
How pregnancy affects oral health: approximately 70% of pregnant women develop gingivitis.
This occurs due to pregnancy hormones, which affect the way gums, react to plaque. Gums of pregnant women are more likely to react to smaller amounts of plaque. The risk of decay increases as morning sickness increases the acidity in the mouth and allowing for more “bad” bacterial to grow. Pregnancy cravings also play a role in increasing the risk of decay – frequent cravings of sugary foods can provide an environment conducive to decay-formation.
How oral health affects pregnancy:
It is a well-known fact that risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use and drug use contribute to babies born prematurely with low birth weight. Research has found that mothers with periodontitis have a 7.5 fold increased risk in having a preterm, low-weight baby. Given the fact that gum disease causes inflammation and bleeding of the gums, the bacteria, which colonises in the gum pockets can easily access the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body. In pregnant women, it can affect their baby so that they are born prematurely with low birth weight.
Hartwell dentistry can help!
It has been found in 2007-2009, 35% of US women did not have a dental visit within the last year and only 56% had a dental visit during pregnancy.
It is recommended from research that pregnant women visit the dentist at the 12-week and 24- week mark of pregnancy in order to have an examination and hygiene visit. This helps detect any developing decays and importantly reduce the bacterial burden in the mouth to improve gum health. By having a healthier mouth– the amount of “bad” bacterial that can access the bloodstream and foetus are reduced, thus reducing the risk of complications.
We will be discussing the links between oral health and our general in upcoming blogs, stay tuned!!!