21ST CENTURY PREGNANCIES AT GREATER RISK OF GUM DISEASE

The Office of National Statistics, for the first time last year, announced that the average age for first time mothers is now above 30 years.

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The priorities for modern parents seem to be to establish financial security, career progression and a secure relationship before embarking upon having children.

About 50% of the world's population suffer from gingivitis and inflammation of the gums which is the precursor to periodontitis or gum disease. As people get older the levels of gingivitis go up and the rate of gum disease also increases.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service has stated that health provisions must ensure maternity services are set up to cater for the changing needs of an increasingly aging population of expectant mothers.

As levels of the hormones progesterone and oestrogen increase at the onset of pregnancy any inflammation caused by pre-existing conditions such as gingivitis become exacerbated. In practice this means that oral health can suffer during this period.

Coupled with a statistic that women with gum disease that is not under control are up to eight times more likely to give birth prematurely to low birth-weight babies, due to the presence of inflammatory chemicals in the blood, means that good oral hygiene should be a priority.

Naturally, pregnant women are being advised on their health by their doctor and the midwife, but there is a question as to whether they are being given advice on oral health?

Increasingly the systemic effects of disease, that is the fact that the body reacts as a whole to disease, is being studied. The impact of poor oral health on the body as a whole has already been linked to various cancers, diabetes and heart disease.

It is becoming obvious that good oral health, including good practices such as regular visits to the dentist and hygienist as well as proper teeth cleaning and inter-dental cleaning is undertaken by the population in general and by people whose health may be going through vulnerable periods in their lives.