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Pregnancy Tooth Care

When you're pregnant, tending to your teeth may be pretty far down on your list of concerns, but it should be closer to the top. Good dental care during pregnancy is crucial, not only for your own health but also for your baby's.

Increased levels of pregnancy hormones progesterone and estrogen boost circulation, which brings more blood to the gums, according to Sally J. Cram, DDS, a periodontist and spokesperson for the American Dental Association.

As a result, gums swell and become more reactive to bacteria, increasing the likelihood of plaque buildup. If you skip brushing or flossing for just one night, within 24 hours your gums may be red, swollen, or bleeding, says Cram. If you continue to slack off on brushing and flossing, you could develop periodontitis, which can cause bone loss.

Gum disease can also trigger a premature birth. In a study of 1300 women who gave birth, researchers studied the dental records of the 13 percent who had delivered prematurely. They found that those who had periodontal disease were four to seven times more likely deliver prematurely than women with healthy gums.

Here's how to keep those pearly whites in good shape:

- Brush and floss at least two or three times a day. It's inconvenient that just when you're low on time and energy, your teeth need more time and attention, but that's reality.

- Switch to a softer toothbrush if brushing makes your gums bleed.

- Don't skip your annual dental checkup. Try to time it to take place during your second trimester.

- Seek an appropriate level of care. If you've had gum problems in the past, you may need more frequent monitoring. Some pregnant patients need monthly cleanings, according to Cram. If you have a cavity or require a root canal, you can be treated while you're pregnant, though special precautions will need to be taken.

- Make sure your diet includes plenty of vitamin C.

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