Healthcare professionals: use Protect Tiny Teeth, a free set of resources, to talk to pregnant women and new moms about the importance of oral health.
One way to prevent cavities in young children is to improve pregnant women’s oral health. Pregnancy may make women more prone to periodontal (gum) disease and cavities. Oral health may be considered an important part of prenatal care, given that poor oral health during pregnancy can lead to poor health outcomes for the mother and baby. Protect Tiny Teethexternal icon includes a mix of attention-grabbing materials to spark awareness that oral health should be part of prenatal care, and tips on how pregnant women and new moms can protect their oral health and the oral health of their infants.
Pregnancy and Periodontal Disease
Nearly 60 to 75% of pregnant women have gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease that occurs when the gums become red and swollen from inflammation that may be aggravated by changing hormones during pregnancy.1 If gingivitis is not treated, the bone that supports the teeth can be lost, and the gums can become infected. Teeth with little bone support can become loose and may eventually have to be extracted. Periodontitis has also been associated with poor pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth and low birth weight.2 However, how periodontitis may lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes is not yet fully understood.
Pregnancy and Dental Cavities
Pregnant women may also be at risk for cavities due to changes in behaviors, such as eating habits.3 Women who have a lot of cavity-causing bacteria during pregnancy and after delivery could transmit these bacteria from their mouth to the mouth of their baby.4 Early contact with these bacteria and to other sugars, such as from frequent snacking or taking a bottle to bed, can lead to early childhood cavities and the need for extensive dental care at a young age.
- 1 in 4 women of childbearing age have untreated cavities.
- Children of mothers who have high levels of untreated cavities or tooth loss are more than 3 times more likely to have cavities as a child.
- Children with poor oral health status are nearly 3 times more likely to miss school because of dental pain.