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Oral Health and Your Pregnancy

It's commonly known that oral health is critical for children, but did you know that seeing the dentist and practicing good dental habits before baby arrives is just as important?

According to the Academy of Periodontology, 50 percent of women get "pregnancy gingivitis," a gum disease that makes gums sore and swollen. "Pregnant women must take extra care," said Dr. Michael Mark, a pediatric dentist with Community Health Center, Inc. "Increased levels of hormones during pregnancy make gums more sensitive and reactive to bacteria in plaque. Gums become red, swollen and may even bleed."

Growing evidence suggests a link between gum disease and premature, underweight births. Pregnant women with gum disease may be more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small. Researchers have found that gum disease may trigger increased levels of biological fluids that induce labor.

To keep your gums--and baby--healthy, see the dentist regularly. Twenty-five percent of women don't see a dentist at all during pregnancy, and 38 percent visit the dentist just once, according to the 2009 Children's Oral Health Survey conducted on behalf of Delta Dental Plans Association. When you schedule your appointment, tell the receptionist you are pregnant.

Between visits, keep teeth clean, particularly near the gum line. Brush and floss regularly, and opt for healthy, nutrient-rich foods over sugary foods.