Pregnancy and the Oral Microbiome: Why Oral Health Is So Important

oral microbiome

“Gain a child, lose a tooth.” Although this old wives tale may be somewhat tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended!), women do seem to be more susceptible to dental issues during pregnancy. In fact, one recent study found that early pregnancy is associated with the proliferation of microbes in the mouth, some of which are the “bad guys” that can lead to impaired dental health 1.

But, is oral health during pregnancy about more than just a pretty smile? Researchers are discovering that the answer is a resounding yes! Taking care of your dental and oral well-being during pregnancy is crucial, especially given its newfound connection to your baby’s microbiome.

Our Many Microbiomes

The human microbiome is an amazing feat of nature, full of trillions of bacteria coexisting within our body and communicating with our cells to keep us healthy. A balanced microbiome, one that has plenty of good bacteria, is vital to our health and wellbeing.

But did you know that within our greater human microbiome exists several smaller microbiomes, each with its own unique ecosystem of bacteria? From microbiomes in the gut and vagina to the mouth and even the breast, each microbial community has a particular purpose in our body.

The oral microbiome is made up of around 800 different species of microbes living in and on our mouth, teeth, gums, palate, tongue, cheeks, and tonsils. As our body’s first line of defense, the oral microbiome acts both as a “gatekeeper” against unwanted invaders and as the entrance to our GI tract that houses 80% of our immune system. Indeed, this dual duty makes the health of our oral microbiome crucial during pregnancy.

Why Does Oral Health Matter?

It turns out that bacteria in your mouth may be traveling all the way to your uterus while you are pregnant. Until recently, scientists believed the womb was a sterile haven for a baby’s prenatal development and that the journey through the birth canal was the baby’s first introduction to mom’s bacteria. This may not be the case, according to new research.

Researchers studied placental tissue from 320 mothers right after they gave birth. Not only did they find a diverse set of microbes, but the specific species of bacteria in the placenta more closely resembled those of the oral microbiome than bacteria in the vagina—or anywhere else in the body 2.

So, not only are babies exposed in utero to these placental bacteria (likely their very first inoculation of microbes), but the bacteria they encounter there—both good and bad—seem to come from the mouth. Researchers have long known that unhealthy gums are linked to certain birth complications 3. Could the oral microbiome be the missing link?

Supporting the Oral Microbiome During Pregnancy

Now that we know the health of our oral microbiome is just as important as our other microbiomes—both for our own and our baby’s health—we can make sure to nurture this important link in the chain.

Here are some tips for keeping your mouth microbes happy and healthy:

Practice natural oral hygiene. Of course, you’ll want to brush your teeth and floss at least twice every day, but what you use is just as—or even more—important than how often you use it. Many traditional kinds of toothpaste and mouthwash contain antibacterial compounds that wipe out the beneficial bacteria along with the bad, so choose toothpaste brands like Earthpaste or Uncle Harry’s for a natural clean. Even floss can be coated with microbe-depleting chemicals; try nylon floss with a wax coating or other natural, chemical-free versions.

Load up on nutrients. Your entire body needs optimal nutrition during pregnancy, and your mouth is no exception. Load up on foods high in these nutrients for a healthy oral microbiome.

Zinc is important for rapid cell growth and helps to form teeth, bones, and connective tissue. Studies even show that zinc deficiency can lead to an unbalanced and unhealthy microbiome4.

Calcium builds strong bones and neutralizes acids that can wear away at your tooth enamel, giving undesirable bacteria a place to dig in and make themselves at home.

Supplement with probiotics. Arguably, the best thing you can do to boost your microbial health during pregnancy—for all your various microbiomes—is to take a natural probiotic supplement. Replenishing your system with beneficial bacteria will ensure that the good guys stay in control so you can pass them on to your baby.

PRO-Moms is a natural probiotic formula designed just for pregnant and nursing moms. With six targeted strains and kiwifruit to promote regularity, the bacteria in PRO-Moms can support immune function, encourage maximum nutrient absorption, increase odds of successful breastfeeding, and even produce folate.

PRO-Dental is designed to promote a healthy oral microbiome and boost immune health. Special probiotic strains work to loosen and dissolve biofilm in your mouth and crowd out the bad guy bacteria that can cause common dental and other oral issues. PRO-Dental also contains zinc for healthy tooth and bone formation.

As a mom, you are the very first source of microbes that will make up your baby’s foundation of health, their very own microbiome. Although we’re learning more and more every day about exactly when (and where) babies first inherit our microbial mix, we do know that it’s up to us to pass on these gifts of health and life. Taking care of all of your microbiomes before, during, and after pregnancy will ensure that your baby has a strong, healthy start at a vibrant life.

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References
1. Fujiwara, N., Tsuruda, K., Iwamoto, Y., Kato, F., Odaki, T., Yamane, N., . . . Noguchi, M. (2015). Significant increase of oral bacteria in the early pregnancy period in Japanese women. Journal of Investigative and Clinical Dentistry, doi:10.1111/jicd.12189.
2. Aagaard, K., Ma, J., Antony, K. M., Ganu, R., Petrosino, J., & Versalovic, J. (2014). The Placenta Harbors a Unique Microbiome. Science Translational Medicine, 6(237).
3. Dortbudak, O., Eberhardt, R., Ulm, M., & Persson, G. R. (2005). Periodontitis, a marker of risk in pregnancy for preterm birth. Journal of Clinical Periodontology, 32(1), 45-52.
4. Reed, S., Neuman, H., Moscovich, S., Glahn, R., Koren, O., & Tako, E. (2015). Chronic Zinc Deficiency Alters Chick Gut Microbiota Composition and Function. Nutrients, 7(12), 9768-9784.

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Emily Courtney is a Writer and Editor at Hyperbiotics and mom to two fun and active boys. Emily is passionate about natural wellness and helping others learn about the power of probiotics for vibrant health! For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

Posted in Infant & Toddler Health, Mom + Child, Oral Health, Pregnancy & Breastfeeding


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