On at least three separate occasions, I can remember having the privilege of breaking the news of a young woman's pregnancy from my side of the dental chair. I use the word "privilege" with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, however. After all, the diagnosis was only determined because of the patient's distinctively red, tender and very swollen gums.

Sheila Wolf, RDH

 

Known as pregnancy gingivitis, this unpleasant condition, affecting 50 to 75 percent of all expectant mothers, is often assumed to be one of the natural consequences of the hormonal changes found in pregnant women. The hormones involved, estrogen and progesterone, are secreted in progressively greater concentrations throughout most of pregnancy. But it is not the hormones that are the culprits.

 

You may even have gum disease already; its symptoms are not always obvious and it afflicts as many as four out of five people. Growing evidence links gum infections with increased risk of premature and underweight births -- not to mention heart attack, stroke, diabetes, ulcers and other serious systemic problems. Pregnant women who have gum infections are eight times more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small. Fortunately, with the right self-care, this does not have to affect you.

A new "take" on tooth brushing
You need to transform the relationship you have probably had your entire life to cleaning your teeth. If you are like me, when you think of cleaning, you probably think of dirt. I clean the dirt off my car. Your mouth is not dirty like your car, your windows or your kitchen floor. It doesn't have dust and grime.

Rather, your mouth contains a tiny world of living bacteria, a very complex society of microorganisms, not unlike your own community in the ways its residents work together and support each other's activities. There are more than 500 different kinds of tiny and varied species of germ life so small they can only be viewed with a microscope and identified with bacterial cultures in a laboratory.

This collection of microbes is composed of billions of teeny-tiny microscopic "bugs," some good, some bad. Left to themselves and undisturbed, the bad bugs can develop into disease-causing plaques or biofilms that live on your teeth, their roots, and the areas around them, under your gums. If not controlled, specific bugs may cause Periodontitis, the infections that break down your teeth and the supporting structures that hold your teeth in your jaws.

Today, we know that tooth decay, gum diseases, abscesses, pus, and bone loss are all caused by bacterial infections. Brushing and flossing, the traditional means of mechanically cleaning your teeth are just not enough. If they were, 3/4 of the population of the United States would not have gum diseases and the systemic illnesses associated with these types of infections. You must learn to control the harmful germ-life that affect the wellness of your mouth, your body, and your unborn child, both chemically and mechanically.

"You must disorganize, disperse, detoxify and disinfect the bacterial biofilms that colonize on the surfaces of the teeth," says Dr Paul H. Keyes, a former senior researcher at the National Institutes of Health. "The therapeutic value of tooth brushing is attained not only by its potential to mechanically remove food particles and bacterial plaques, but also its ability to deliver antibacterial agents to the surfaces of your teeth and gums which have not been adequately "debugged" by the mechanical measures you have used."

So, from now on, I want you to think about self-care methods that will decontaminate, disinfect and "de-bug" your teeth. It is from this new perspective that I am going to introduce you to anti-bacterial oral hygiene that will ensure excellent dental health.

Brushing up
From the beginning, you may have been bombarded with a flurry of conflicting of instructions on how to perform this vital ritual. Is it up and down? Side to side? Medium bristle? Hard? Soft? And the biggest question of all: What in the heck is that little Hershey's Kiss-shaped thing on the end of the brush? No matter how you learned to brush, the simple fact is that you should keep brushing, brush to disinfect rather than just clean.

As a disinfectant, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) mixed with a tiny bit of salt, and hydrogen peroxide is hard to beat. When mixed as a paste, it will detoxify and disinfect the bacterial biofilms that colonize on the crowns and roots of your teeth and your gums. The easiest way to use this combination is to dip your toothbrush into a capful of peroxide -- mixed with half water -- to moisten the bristles. Then dip the brush into the baking soda. The powder will adhere to the moistened bristles and can be applied with the brush along the gum line, or even lightly worked under the gums with the little Hershey's Kiss-shaped doodad on the end of the toothbrush.

If the taste is objectionable, a little mouthwash can be added to the peroxide. Another approach is to apply any toothpaste you like, and then dip the brush into some baking soda. PregnancyAndBaby.com

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