What is the public health issue?
Oral health is integral to general health. There is now evidence suggesting that oral health, particularly gum disease, may have an impact on the occurrence of preterm births, resulting in low birth weight babies. Pregnant women with periodontal (gum) disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that’s born too early and too small. The exact connection between poor oral health and preterm birth is unknown. It is thought that periodontal disease may lead to premature birth by the bacteria in the mouth spreading to the placenta or amniotic fluid, and also that systemic inflammation caused by periodontitis may lead to preterm labor and membrane rupture. The likely problem is a chemical found in oral bacteria called prostaglandin, which can induce labor and which occurs in very high levels in severe cases of periodontal disease. Additionally, there are certain oral problems that affect pregnant women specifically. About half of women experience pregnancy gingivitis, beginning in the second or third month of pregnancy that increases in severity throughout the eighth month. This condition can be uncomfortable and cause swelling, bleeding, redness or tenderness in the gum tissue. In some cases, gums swollen by pregnancy gingivitis can react strongly to irritants and form large growths, called “pregnancy tumors”, which are not cancerous and are generally painless. If a tumor persists, it may require removal by a dentist. It is very important for pregnant women to maintain their oral health.
What is the impact of premature birth in the U.S.?
Births are considered preterm when they occur before 37 weeks gestation. Preterm births can result in both low birth weight (LBW), less then 2,500 grams or 5.5 pounds, and very low birth weight (VLBW) babies, a weight of less than 1,500 grams or 3.3 pounds. Premature birth and low birthweight babies significantly contribute to the incidence of infant mortality, accounting for 70% of prenatal deaths in the U.S. Disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight were the second leading cause of infant death in 2004, affecting 4.6% of babies. Premature births have soared to become the number one obstetric problem in the United States, and the percentage of LBW infants has increased by 36% since 1990 when it was 5.8%. Many premature babies come into the world with serious health problems, and those who survive may suffer life-long consequences. Moreover, LBW infants suffer from numerous health complications.
Improving Oral Health Before and During Pregnancy
* Drink fluoridated water.
* Brush your teeth and gums twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss each day.
* Make an appointment with a dental provider.
* Make good nutritional choices; limit sweet drinks and avoid refined sugar.
* Include Vitamin C and Calcium in your daily diet.
* Quit smoking.
* Get plenty of rest.
* Learn how to take care of the baby’s gums and teeth now.
Article Source: http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/P0/P00137.pdf
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