Pregnancy is a time to discover new information and what seems like an endless number of health visits to fit into a busy schedule. All of a sudden, you are hyperaware of everything from diet and weight gain to being advised not to relax in a hot bath.
There’s a human growing inside you and every part of your body is working hard – even your teeth and gums.
A study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists from 2007 through 2009 found that 35% of U.S. women reported that they did not visit a dentist within the past year and that 56% of women did not do so during pregnancy. Unfortunately, 10 years later, there has been limited progress on oral care during pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1 in 4 women of childbearing age have untreated cavities.
“I do see a gap in proper oral care during pregnancy,” said Katie Sino, DDS, of Southern Oak Dental in Greenville. “Sometimes it is a fear of treating a pregnant woman or just a lack of knowledge on its importance in overall health.”
Due to these revelations, Dr. Sino has made prenatal oral health a priority within her dental practice.
“I know that seeing the dentist can be uncomfortable or seem too difficult when you have to juggle other appointments, working or taking care of other children,” she explained. “We welcome families and try our best to offer a child-friendly, convenient environment while you receive care.”
It is that welcoming environment that Dr. Sino said is of utmost importance with her pregnant patients.
“Some dental offices might shy away from treating pregnant women because they are not up-to-date on the current recommendations,” she explained. “I am comfortable treating and educating pregnant women. Having three children myself, I know how important it is to feel like this is a normal stage of life.”
She also realizes the lasting effects of oral health care during pregnancy. The CDC reported that children are more than three times as likely to have tooth decay if their mothers have high levels of untreated tooth decay.
The American Dental Association conducted 23 systemic reviews through 2016 that concluded associations exist between periodontitis and preterm birth, low-birth-weight babies born prematurely and the development of pre-eclampsia.
“People don’t realize that the mouth is connected to a healthy pregnancy,” Dr. Sino said. “Oral bacteria doesn’t just stay in your mouth. It is more important in pregnancy to have limited exposure to bacteria.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics has taken the stance that dental care is “safe and important” during pregnancy.
“We would only take X-rays as needed, and there are shields to protect the abdomen in case we need to take them,” Dr. Sino explained.
She also explained that the deep cleaning needed to treat periodontal disease is also safe: “Periodontal disease would be important to address as it could worsen during pregnancy, and it can spread the inflammatory bacteria throughout the body.”
Dr. Sino said the perfect time to visit the dentist during pregnancy is between 14 and 20 weeks.
“That is when nausea is reduced and also before the patient becomes too uncomfortable to lie in the chair for treatment,” she said.
Dr. Sino recommends waiting until after the pregnancy for any cosmetic procedures, such as teeth whitening treatments.
“I want to be attentive to their needs. I want them to be comfortable. It’s not only important to them but to their developing baby as well.”
For more information on Southern Oak Dental and their prenatal oral health care, visit www.southernoakdental.com or call 864-558-7155.
By Theresa Stratford