and Your Mouth
By Sheila "Mama
Gums" Wolf, RDH
Being pregnant has its unique
oral challenges. Because of the radical increases in the levels
of estrogen and progesterone in progressively greater concentrations
throughout pregnancy, the expectant mother's gum tissues become
more vulnerable to infection. Fifty to seventy-five percent of
all pregnant women experience an unpleasant and often painful
condition of the gums called pregnancy gingivitis. This inflammation
and infection not only affects the mouth, but also can have far-reaching
consequences to the mother's whole body health, her pregnancy,
and her unborn child.
As a dental hygienist, I
can recall, on at least three separate occasions, having had 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. Ouch!
Talk about taking the good
news with the bad.
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
more prone to having a baby that is born too early and too small.
Fortunately, with the right self-care, this does not have to affect
A new perspective
on tooth brushing
You need to transform the
relationship you have probably had your entire life with the cleaning
of 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 over 400 different
kinds of tiny and varied species of germ life, so small they can
only be viewed with a microscope or identified from 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 infection that breaks 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, three-quarters 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 affects the wellness of your mouth, your
body, and your unborn child, both chemically and mechanically.
Dr. Paul H. Keyes, a former
Senior Researcher at the National Institutes of Health, advises,
"You must disorganize, disperse, detoxify and disinfect the
bacterial biofilms that colonize on the surfaces of the teeth."
According to Dr. Keyes,
"The therapeutic value of toothbrushing 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.
From the beginning, you
may have been bombarded with a flurry of conflicting instructions
on how to perform this toothbrushing 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? But, 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 are 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 wet toothbrush into a capful of
peroxide 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.
Sheila Wolf, known affectionately
as Mama Gums, has been practicing dental hygiene for 32 years.
Working at the leading edge of nonsurgical periodontal care, her
mission is to educate and empower people to take control of their
own mouths. She has brought her message to places as far apart
as California and Connecticut, Israel, Africa, and the hills of
Kentucky. Her latest project is her book, Pregnancy and Oral
Health: The critical connection between your mouth and your baby,
due to be published this summer. Sheila can be reached at (619)
287-3151 or at www.Mamagums.com.