Perinatal Oral Care

Beginning with the completion of 20-28 weeks gestation to 1-4 weeks after birth is considered the perinatal period.6 Many expectant and current mothers are unaware of the implications that poor oral health can have on their overall health and pregnancy, as well as their child. Many women do not seek dental care during pregnancy, and those that do may confront unwillingness by dentists to provide care.

Elective dental care should be completed during the second trimester and first half of the third trimester. The first trimester is the period of organogenesis when the fetus is highly susceptible to environmental influences. During the third trimester laying in the dental chair for long periods of time can pose a risk to the pregnant women. Necessary dental care is safe in all trimesters though.6

Dental emergencies should be dealt with as they arise throughout the entire pregnancy. The management of pain, and elimination of infection is important so that stress to the mother and endangerment of the fetus are avoided.

A child born to a mother with poor oral health, and untreated caries, will most likely acquire the caries causing organism Streptococci mutans (S. mutans) earlier than others. This occurs through vertical transmission (kissing, using same utensils for food).7

The goal is to decrease the number of cariogenic bacteria in the expectant mother so that the colonization of S. mutans in the infant is delayed. This can be achieved by educating and counseling pregnant women on ideal oral health practices and eliminating carious lesions in the pregnant women.

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