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Pitt School of Dental Medicine to Offer Dental Services for Pregnant Women through Magee-Womens Hospital

PITTSBURGH, June 6, 2005 — Expectant mothers have many health issues to consider during their pregnancy; one important issue that is often overlooked is oral health and how it can affect both the mother and the baby. The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine and Magee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are collaborating to provide oral health services to low-income women.

Under the program, medical assistance patients seen at Magee’s outpatient clinic will be referred to the Dental Hygiene clinic at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. The expectant mothers will then receive a routine dental exam and teeth cleaning along with educational information about oral health and how it can affect their baby, how they can prevent oral health problems and information about how to care for their baby’s teeth after they are born. If needed, the mothers will be referred for emergency care or other dental services.

“Many women don’t realize that doing something as simple as brushing their teeth and flossing regularly could prevent periodontal disease,” said Angelina Riccelli, M.S., associate professor and director of the Dental Hygiene Program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. “Even more don’t realize that they are more susceptible to periodontal disease during pregnancy and that periodontal disease can harm their child and could cause pre-term labor and low birth weight.”

Pregnancy can change the way the gum tissue responds to the presence of plaque. If plaque isn’t removed daily, it can build up and lead to gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal disease. Gingivitis can progress to a more serious form of periodontal disease called periodontitis. Any type of bacterial infection, which includes gingivitis and periodontitis, can cause the release of the hormone prostaglandin, which can lead to premature labor.

Expectant mothers should pay close attention to their oral health and make note of any changes in their mouths during pregnancy. Warning signs of gum disease include: red, tender or swollen gums; bleeding gums; a bad taste in the mouth that won’t go away; pus between the teeth and gums; loose or separating teeth; a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite; and/or a swelling or bump in your gums.

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