Women’s Health Month: An annual dental wellness check benefits everyone, including pregnant women

TILLAMOOK, Ore. — This is Women’s Health Month. It’s a time to remember that women should have an annual wellness visit with their doctor, talk about mammograms and other preventive measures.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to schedule a wellness visit with your dentist. Not only is it a good idea for oral health, it’s good for your overall health as well, says Sherry Edwards, DDS, CareOregon dental director.
“Inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases and affects both physical health and oral health,” Dr. Edwards says.
Men and women can benefit, including some who may have thought they could or should skip it: people with dentures and pregnant women.

In fact, both regular and emergency dental care during pregnancy are not only safe, they are recommended, and important for a woman and her developing baby.
“Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause your gums to bleed easily, swell, or both,” says Dr. Edwards. “These are signs of inflammation due to pregnancy gingivitis or gum disease.”
Oral infection and inflammation during pregnancy may be linked to premature, low birth-weight babies, while dental cleanings contribute to decreased risk of pre-term birth. And for the mother, the acid associated with morning sickness can lead to erosion of tooth enamel and dental decay.
Dr. Edwards cautions that a mother’s oral health can affect her baby after she’s born.
“Dental decay is a transmissible disease that can be prevented,” she says. The bacteria that causes dental decay can be passed from mother to child by kissing, sharing utensils or cleaning off a pacifier with her mouth. And children are more than three times as likely to have tooth decay if their mothers have high levels of untreated tooth decay.
For older men and women, including those with dentures, an annual oral wellness visit is also important.
People with periodontal disease have a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Dr. Edwards says, and for people who have RA, periodontal disease is more severe.
Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease affecting people with diabetes, and the two are linked in cycles.
“Periodontal disease can cause blood sugar levels to get out of control, and if blood sugar levels are high, gum disease can flare up,” she says. “Dental cleanings can help control blood sugar levels and improve overall health.”
For people who are being treated for high blood pressure, good periodontal health is associated with better systolic blood pressure and lower odds of treatment failure.
And if you’re being treated for a disease, that’s another reason to see the dentist.
“Saliva protects teeth,” Dr. Edwards says. “Medications used to treat many diseases can decrease saliva. This can cause dry mouth. Dry mouth leads to a higher risk of cavities.”
Here is what to expect at an annual oral health wellness visit.
The dentist will check and provide care for cavities and gum disease, which may be present even if you can detect no symptoms.
Information will be provided on how to treat problems such as gum disease, cavities and dry mouth.
The dentist will check for oral cancer. An estimated 50,000 new cases a year are diagnosed.
If you have dentures, your dentist will check their fit.
Your child’s first visit with a dentist should be when the child between six and 12 months old.

About Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization
Established in September 2012, Columbia Pacific CCO coordinates health services for more than 23,000 Oregon Health Plan members in Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties. For more information, please visit www.colpachealth.org.