The Pregnant Life: Teeth Bite Back

Amy Keyishian

Floss Walrus
I Am The Floss Walrus
I know this isn't unusual, but I don't like the dentist. Like, really don't. But as I've mentioned, I had Penelope 10 weeks early, and picked a doctor, this time around, who specializes in high-risk pregnancies.

At our first meeting, she told me to get to the dentist ASAP for a cleaning. Yeah, yeah, I thought. First let's get me on progesterone shots, find the best omega-3 fatty acid supplement, and – let's face it, I was covering every base except the one in my mouth. Because it's my teeth. How much damage could they do?

Turns out my teeth are trying to kill me! Get this:

  • Gum disease is linked to pre-term labor. I can't confirm this number, but a nurse told me up to 10 percent of early births can be traced back to … bleeding gums?!
  • Bacteria and tooth decay can spread to your kid if you share food or or swap spit in any way (you know, like when your toddler sticks both hands and half her head into your mouth to inspect your tongue … or is that just mine?!). That puts her teeth at risk – in other words, your cavities are contagious.
  • Pregnancy attacks your gums anyway – 60-70 percent of pregnant women get pregnancy gingivitis. So I guess they attack back.
  • Gum disase is also linked to diabetes and freaking heart disease. Seriously.

The gentle and reassuring Dina, who cleaned my teeth on Friday, told me most of the above while scraping plaque off my teeth. (I confirmed most of it on Google.) "Gingivitis is an active infection in your body," she told me. "You'd take care of any other infection – a UTI, an abscess – because you wouldn't want the resources you need for the baby taken up by battle against infection, right?"

Let me tell you, nothing will keep you glued to your chair and feeling brave through a tooth-scraping than the certain knowledge that an hour here could prevent six weeks in the NICU.

So weird: I had been thinking of my mouth as somehow outside my body, but it turns out it's all connected. I hate that.

Anyway, my teeth are clean, and I've informed my husband that he's going to have to deal with me flossing during sitcoms. He's ok with that. Again: Would you rather sit next to a bowling ball with floss-fangs, or spend six weeks in the NICU? Exactly.

So that's my PSA for the day. In other news, did I mention I can feel this little birdie fluttering around inside me? So far, she likes late-morning and early-evening, which I think was her sister's favorite time, too. This week, I've got my regular every-month OB appointment, plus tomorrow, my first cervical-length ultrasound. More on that next time.

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