Pregnancy and Gum Disease

Gum disease in pregnant women and its impact on an unborn baby

Gum disease is an infection in the mouth that can impact a pregnant women’s hormone levels and cause early labor. Premature babies have an increased risk of death and serious medical problems such as cerebral palsy, lung and digestive disease, intellectual disabilities and vision and hearing loss.

Recognizing the connection between a healthy mouth and a healthy pregnancy, state Medicaid programs typically have an additional dental benefit for expectant mothers. The inclusion of this benefit follows the logic that preventive practices can improve the health of both the mother and child and help conserve future program health expenditures. It makes long-term sense for all pregnant women to embrace good oral health practices.

What is gum disease?

Early symptoms of gum disease are redness or bleeding of the gums from brushing teeth, using dental floss, or biting into hard foods such as apples. Other symptoms include swelling of the gums, bad breath, and gums that draw away from the teeth. As gum disease worsens, deep pockets may appear between the teeth.

Successful prevention or management of gum disease begins with good oral health habits. These include brushing twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and flossing every day. An expectant mother should also see a dentist at least one time during their pregnancy for an oral exam and cleaning and inquire into any recommended at-home products such as a mouth rinse or prescription fluoride toothpaste.

Connecting pregnant women to care

DentaQuest has implemented its Smiling Stork program to better ensure that women receive dental care while pregnant. The program integrates the services and support of OB/GYNs, dental providers and community organizations to ensure pregnant women are accessing dental care. It provides written information and education to women on:
  • The importance of being screened for periodontal disease during pregnancy
  • How to access covered dental services during pregnancy
  • The value of establishing good oral health habits for their babies