Monday, May 19, 2014
I began with a little bit about how funny my son thought it was that a six-months pregnant lady was making a call on Dr. Stork. And he laughed, which is good because - yes, fans of The Doctors and even longer-term lovers of The Bachelor - emergency physician Dr. Travis Stork is delightful. Also? Dreamy.
He leans in, rests an arm on my shoulder and congratulates me repeatedly on having a baby on the way.
"Take good care," he says as he hugs me later. I will. OF MY TEETH. I mean that. Oral health care and mamas, particularly pregnant mamas, is what we are discussing, and Dr. Stork is invested in women steering clear of gum disease and getting back to regular check-ups.
But first he tells me this: He's delivered his share of babies in the ER, but it's not his best doctor skill. I think we can forgive him that, right? Back to the teeth, ladies. COME ON. It's National Women's Health Week, after all.
"Pregnant women have to be very careful," Dr. Stork advises. But he's not putting out a big scare-tactic call to add to the long list of DON'Ts that bombard mother-to-be. Instead, I've asked him to tell us what we can do that will be helfpul and healthy, and so he's sharing facts.
While the rest of the population has a really high rate of ginvities - one out of two people get the gum bleed that can lead to much bigger dental problems - pregnant women exceed that. About 70% of expectant mothers have gingivitis, Dr. Stork shares, and it impacts her health and is a concern for her long-term well-being.
"I know for myself, I'm not pregnant," he smiles. And, you guys, he's a charmer, he didn't even need to finish this sentence. But..but...this is an area of care that is too easy to neglect, and also too easy to remedy.
Bleeding gums are common during pregnancy, but too often ignored. (How often would you just pretend you weren't bleeding from an eyeball? Dr. Stork asks this with a smile, but it's a legitimate question.) Gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which can deepen the gum disease infection into the bones and tissue. This makes for more than discomfort in the dental chair. Some studies (not all, to be fair) have linked gum disease to things pregnant women really don't want to deal with, like preterm birth and low birth weight.
Self-care, he says, can be handled in five minutes (six if you are super-thorough) a day of the basic brushing, flossing and a quick rinse. Moms (and I am adding this in) are also setting the precedent for kids who grow up taking good care of their teeth, and then all of the health benefits that spring out of well-tended oral care.
It happens all the time - mothers are vigilent about toothbrushing and six-month check-ups for their kids but neglect their own oral health care.
If a mom is teetering on that line of gingivitis or has not tended to her own dental care, what is the very first thing she should do?
"Schedule a dental appointment," Dr. Stork says definitively. And then, on the way home, stop by the drug store and invest in the tools you need to make oral health care a part of your lifestyle, not just a one-time reaction to a worrisome upcoming cleaning.
"DAILY," he underlines. That is how often women have to recommit to the brush-floss-rinse routine. "Not every other day, not once a week."
How can pregnant ladies (all the pregnant ladies, hold your floss up!) and all moms begin our new routine for brighter, shinier, healthier smiles today? Here are a few more tips from my new favorite The Doctors doctor, Dr. Stork.
Spinny brush or no spinny brush? "It's personal preference," he says. His personal preference, after reading clinical studies and getting dentist recommendation, is a spinny brush. Why? Because unless you are "a master of the brush," the spin variety wields better cleaning results. Most importantly, brush every day, twice a day (are you getting the timing emphasis here yet?).
The biggest mistake we're making with teeth whitening? "Letting stuff build up in the first place," Dr. Stork (who clarifies here he's a "non-dentist") says. "It's the little things." Simply rinsing our mouths with water after drinking coffee or red wine will make a big difference. And if that sounds tedious, consider that Dr. Stork himself drinks water after a half-glass of wine to keep his pearly whites so pearly and white.
If you do get to the place where whitening feels like the right next move, talk to your dentist first, he says. Many of us have sensitivities that will color which brand or usage is best for us, so personalized advice is important.
And if you're having trouble or feel too tired at night to brush? Then keep a toothbrush, floss and mouthwash where it is convenient. He says he has a stash in the downstairs powder room, so he can take care of tooth business after watching TV and before heading up to bed, or whenever he has a break. The kitchen is another place to keep an extra set so every one in the family is reminded to brush and floss morning and night. I've personally known moms who have no shame in flossing in the carpool lane, and I think Dr. Stork would approve. Making oral health care convenient is smart, especially for those of us juggling schedules and snacks and...you know this already.
This post is sponsored in partnership with One2One Network and Crest Pro-Health. Crest Pro-Health (paste, brush, rinse, and floss) is on sale for $2.99 each PLUS when you buy 2 you get 1 free. This offer is valid from 5/18-5/24.