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Take Care of Your Teeth

Get a Dental Checkup Before Getting Pregnant


By Michael Lasalandra
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center correspondent


If you are planning to become pregnant, one of the first things you ought to do is get yourself in to see a dentist for a checkup.

A dentist?

That's right.

"Oral infections can be linked to bad pregnancy outcomes," says Elizabeth Kester, RN, Perinatal Outreach Manager in the Maternal and Child Health Department at Lawrence General Hospital, an affiliate of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

"Gingivitis, if bad enough, can result in preterm labor, low-birth-weight and preeclampsia," she explains.

Recent studies have shown pregnant women with periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to deliver a premature, low birth weight baby. Such babies are at higher risk for breathing problems, anemia, jaundice, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, congestive heart failure and malnutrition, according to the Massachusetts Dental Society.

The likely cause is a labor-inducing chemical found in oral bacteria called prostaglandin. Very high levels of this chemical are found in women with severe cases of periodontal disease.

"It is especially important to have good oral health before and during pregnancy," says MDS President Paula K. Friedman, DDS. "Gingivitis or gum inflammation is especially common during pregnancy and can result in red, puffy, or tender gums. These problems are caused by an increased level of the hormone progesterone. That's why if you're thinking of having a baby, it is important to have dental checkups and regular cleanings to maintain good oral health - even before you are pregnant."

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Dental Association both strongly recommend that women who are planning to become pregnant be seen by their dentist for a general dental health assessment, Kester notes.

Another reason to see a dentist before getting pregnant is that you should avoid any unnecessary X-rays while pregnant, she adds.

And if you are found to need major dental work, you may need medications and it may not be a good idea to take them while pregnant.

"Make sure to check with your doctor before taking any medication while pregnant," Kester says.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted September 2012

Contact Information

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
East Campus
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-667-0475