Building upon its National Dental Hygiene Month efforts in October, the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) will emphasize the importance of prevention of periodontal disease in expectant mothers in recognition of National Children's Dental Health Month in February.
"National Children's Dental Health Month is an excellent opportunity for dental hygienists nationwide to educate expectant mothers on the effects periodontal disease may have on their unborn children," says Jean Connor, RDH, ADHA president. "Dental hygienists' dedication to educating their patients can help contribute to keeping children healthy from the very beginning."
Recent studies have indicated that periodontal disease may be a risk factor in certain pregnancy complications, including preterm delivery (PTD) and low birth weight (LBW). 
PTD occurs when an infant is born at less than 37 weeks of gestation. An infant born weighing less than 2,500 g (around 5.5 lbs) is considered LBW. Both of these complications can lead to an increased risk for neurodevelopmental problems, learning disabilities, health disparities and mortality.
A change in the fit of partials or dentures 
The link between periodontal disease and these pregnancy complications may be a result of several mechanisms: spread of infection from the mouth to the body, a lowered immune system, and the spread of microbial toxins.
ADHA encourages dental hygienists across the country to get involved during NCDHM this February to increase public awareness of the specific oral health issues related to children and to help parents understand how prevention plays a key role in optimum health.
For fact sheets about this topic, and other oral health issues, visit www.adha.org/media or www.adha.org/oralhealth/.