What does dental care have to do with conception and pregnancy?
Taking care of your teeth is important while you are trying to conceive. This is true for both men and women. Healthy teeth and gums also are crucial for a successful pregnancy and childbirth.
A healthy mouth is considered free of cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. Cavities, also called dental caries, are caused when acid, created by consuming sugary drinks and food, reacts with bacteria present in plaque and erodes tooth enamel. Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, occurs when plaque buildup causes irritation, redness, and swelling. Periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis, is gum disease that has progressed and spread to underlying tissue and can lead to bone and tooth loss.
These three dental conditions all have something in common: bacterial inflammation. As you prepare for conception and pregnancy, it is important to understand why it may be time to step-up your dental care routine.
It can be easy to forget to go the dentist
Infertility treatment is intense and time-consuming. With all the frequent appointments, it can seem like you are at constantly at a doctor’s office. So, it can be easy to neglect the other parts of your body, including your teeth.
Many Americans ‘forget’ to visit their dentist annually or semi-annually. In fact, a Gallup survey conducted in 2014 found that one-third did not visit a dentist at all that year. Many avoid the experience because of the fear treatment will be painful. But neglecting dental care has its own risks.
Poor oral health can affect overall health
Frequent brushing, flossing, and regular checkups will reduce the bacteria teeming in your mouth. These germs can find their way into your bloodstream, causing infections. Severe complications can include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory infections, and dementia in addition to pregnancy complications, erectile dysfunction and taking longer to conceive.
Dental infections and trying to conceive
The Smile Study was a pregnancy intervention study for women with periodontal disease who were in the second trimester of their pregnancy. The study found it took non-Caucasian women an additional two months to conceive, a negative conception influence similar to obesity.
The researchers advised women to have a dental check-up prior to attempting to conceive. They hypothesized that the low-grade systemic inflammation resulting from periodontal disease could affect the endometrium and the subsequent delayed ability to get pregnant.
Dental disease also can impact sperm
The quantity of healthy sperm also can be compromised by dental health. Research has shown men with poor semen parameters may have bacteriospermia, or bacteria present in the semen, that can kill healthy sperm. A small 2010 Israeli study assessed the semen analyses of 56 men, finding that 80% had some form of periodontal disease and 68% had a poor or zero sperm count.
Poor dental hygiene can affect your pregnancy
Since the goal of infertility treatment is pregnancy, pre-conception dental care is an essential step. It is important to make sure your teeth and gums are in tiptop shape before you conceive. This will reduce your chances of contracting gingivitis or worse since increased hormone levels during pregnancy will exacerbate existing periodontal issues. Women with periodontitis are more likely to experience pre-term labor and birth and deliver low birth weight babies.
We think the message is clear. Don’t neglect your dental health while you are trying to conceive, during pregnancy or throughout your life. You will want your mouth to be picture-perfect when your dream of parenthood comes true.