Halloween Preconception Health Tip! Love Your Teeth

Healthy Halloween Teeth?

Healthy Halloween Teeth?

October is National Dental Hygiene Month, which is sponsored by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA).  So it only seemed logical to focus on oral health for our last post of the month.  Yes, today’s post is partially inspired by the candy that is so tempting during and directly after Halloween, not to mention the beautiful sugar skulls that are part of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations.  But it’s also inspired by the importance of dental health for moms-to-be, both before and during pregnancy.

Sugar Skull

Click on the sugar skull for a traditional sugar skull recipe.Why is dental health important for women who might or want to get pregnant?

Brushing, flossing and regular cleaning is important for all women since problems with your teeth and gums can affect the health of your entire body. It’s even more important before and during pregnancy, including for these reasons:

  • Gum disease and other dental problems can affect the health of a pregnancy,  increasing the risk for both having a baby early (preterm) and giving birth to a baby that is too small (low birth weight).
  • The changing hormone levels that occur with pregnancy can actually make some dental problems worse.
  • If a woman’s mouth is healthy before and during pregnancy, it’s likely that her baby will be born with a healthy mouth too.  

Tips for Better Dental Health

Here are some dental health tips from Every Woman California.

  • Visit a dentist at least once a year, or as often as the dentist recommends, for cleaning, exam and protective treatments, such as fluoride and dental sealants.
  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and a soft toothbrush at least two times every day, especially before bed.
  • Floss your teeth every day.
  • Limit foods and drinks containing sugar to mealtimes only. Don’t drink juice, soda or carbonated drinks, including diet soda, between meals. Juices and sodas contain sugar that can cause tooth decay (cavities). Even diet sodas contain acids that can weaken the outer surface of your teeth.
  • If you use chewing gum or candies, choose brands that are sugarless. Those containing xylitol are best and can help protect your teeth. Xylitol can actually help decrease the amount of harmful bacteria in your mouth that cause tooth decay.
  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.

What should you do if you don’t have dental insurance?

Despite the fact that a healthy mouth plays an important role in overall health, the Affordable Care Act doesn’t include dental coverage.  And dental care can be very expensive. Fortunately, if you live in San Francisco, there are many sources of free and low-cost dental care, and the San Francisco Health Plan (Healthy SF) does cover some services.  Click here for a recently updated list of low-cost dental providers from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

How do you brush your teeth?

According to the ADHA, brushing and flossing regularly is the best thing that you can do to keep your mouth healthy.  Are you doing it correctly?  The video below provides a great “how to.” For more tips, click here to go to the ADHA website.

Weekly Round-Up: Women’s Health News!

Happy Summer!  With last week’s news about Plan B and news about dropping HPV rates among teens who have gotten the HPV, youth health seems to be a major focus right now.  Here are the stories that really caught our attention, along with links to learn more.

teengirlsHPV Rates among U.S. Teens  Drop Since Vaccination Began
The prevalence of the human papillomavirus (HPV) among U.S. teenage girls has dropped by more than half since a vaccine was introduced in 2006, even though vaccination rates are still relatively low, according to a CDC study that was published on Wednesday in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.  To learn more, go to Women’s Health Policy Report.

New CDC Outreach Effort to A/PI Community On HEP B
Infographic: Hepatitis B among Americans born in Asia and the Pacific IslandsDid you know that people who were born in Asia and the Pacific Islands represent less than 5 percent of the U.S. population, but account for more than half of the 1.2 million Americans estimated to be living with hepatitis B? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just launched Know Hepatitis B, the first national multilingual, multi-year communications campaign to increase testing for hepatitis B among A/PI folks. To learn more, go to: http://www.cdc.gov/knowhepatitisb/. Click on the image at left for a great infographic on this topic.

What does the ACA (Obamacare) mean for you?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare,  is set to be fully in place by 2014.  What does it mean for the average person? KQED public radio has developed an easy-to-understand orientationto help people understand the ACA. Go to: http://www.kqed.org/news/health/obamacare/obamacare-guide.jsp#4.  Click here to learn more about preventive services that are covered for women, including

Vitamins-Step-2Do you know what’s in the herbs and supplements that you’re taking?
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) and National Library of Medicine (NLM) have just launched a Dietary Supplement Label Database. The DSLD contains a searchable database of the full label contents from a large number of dietary supplement products marketed in the U.S. Go to: http://www.dsld.nlm.nih.gov/dsld/

R1129Skipping Breakfast Could Raise Your Risk for Diabetes
A new study found that when women skipped the morning meal, they experienced  insulin resistance.  This is a condition where a person needs more insulin to bring their blood sugar into a normal range. While the study was done on women with a body mass index (BMI) of over 25, we would be surprised if skipping breakfast wouldn’t result in the same type of insulin resistance among all women, regardless of their weight. Click here to learn more.

Could a Little Alcohol be Safe During Pregnancy?
Pregnant women are told to avoid alcohol  at all costs.   However, a new study published in the British Medical Journal found that moderate drinking (3 to 7 glasses of alcohol per week) didn’t harm developement of a fetus’ nervous system.  Go to WebMD to learn more: http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20130618/could-moderate-drinking-be-safe-during-pregnancy

How much do you know about preventing birth defects? (Quiz)


In the U.S., about 1 out of every 3 babies is born with some type of birth defect.  Many of them could have been prevented.  So how much do you know about preventing birth defects?  We figured that we would follow up yesterday’s re-blog of the Go Folic! UK’s post about Vitamin B-12 with this short quiz (it will open in a new window, everyone passes).

Go to CDC Birth Defects Quiz (will open in a new window)

Once you’re finished, please share this information with friends and family members, especially those who are trying to become pregnant or could get pregnant.

This is important news for any woman who might become pregnant and it makes sense, since our bodies require B-12 to process folic acid. And it’s one more reason to Go Folic! with a multi-vitamin. The study that this recommendation is based on recommends that women supplement with at least 2.5 mcg of B-12 everyday. Go Folic! Multis, which San Francisco women can get for free from the health department contain 6 mcg. If you don’t live in San Francisco, any multivitamin with 100% of the RDA will have this amount.

CONTEST ALERT – From our friends at ISIS, Inc.!

We all do little things to keep ourselves healthy.  Some of us walk to school or work instead of driving.  Sometimes we turn off the TV and head outside.  Some of us even take multivitamins with folic acid!

What creative things are you doing in your life to make yourself healthy?  Our friends at ISIS, Inc. want to hear all about it!

Today is for Tomorrow is a preconception health campaign for young women (ages 16-24) in California. Preconception years are the years where you could get pregnant, choose to get pregnant, or are in between pregnancies. Not planning to get pregnant anytime soon? That is okay, staying healthy starts way before ever deciding to have a baby, and most of the small changes you can make today can make a big impact on your tomorrow.

If you’re a young woman between the ages of 16 and 24, you’re eligible to enter ISIS, Inc.’s Today is For Tomorrow contest.  Let ISIS, Inc. know – in 140 characters or less – what things you do to keep yourself healthy.  You’ll have a chance to win a $2,000 scholarship, Nintendo Wii, or other great prizes.

Contest ends July 10th (24th!*), so hurry to http://www.todayisfortomorrow.org to submit your entry!

*Contest deadline has been extended until July 24th!

PSA – Before You Know!

Happy Women’s Week Wednesday! In celebration of women’s health, we’ve released our new public service announcement on YouTube. “Before You Know” focuses on how folic acid can prepare women now for better birth outcomes later on in life.

Taking folic acid everyday 3-12 months before pregnancy can lower the risk spina bifida, anencephaly and other neural birth defects by 70% (1) . It may also lower the chance of pre-term labor and low infant birth weights. So remember to check those vitamins for 400mcg of folic acid B9! To see if you’re getting 400 mcg from your food, there’s a cool App available  for iPhone from vitatrack that will help calculate your intake.

Check out the video:

Click the here to view the Chinese Version

Clinician’s Corner – Should You Use the New Birth Control Pill?

Should You Use the New Birth Control Pill?

Have you heard about Beyaz?
This is a newly approved birth control pill that is basically like the Yasmin (Yaz) pills. The only difference between them is that the Beyaz birth control pill has a form of folic acid in it. This means that for as long as a woman takes Beyaz correctly, she is getting over 400 mcg of this very important B vitamin every day. For more information about Beyaz, go to http://www.beyaz.com/.

What should you remember about folate and folic acid?
• Folate is a type of B vitamin found naturally in many foods. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate that you get when you take a vitamin supplement.
• Many teenagers and adult women don’t get enough of this vitamin which is very important for their health.
• Ideally, folic acid supplementation should be taken three months before you get pregnant and during the first 3 months of pregnancy or longer to help reduce the chances your baby will be born with problems of the spine and brain.
• If you take folic acid supplementation for a year or longer before pregnancy, it may help decrease the chances your baby will be born too early or perhaps with other serious health problems.
• The vitamin doesn’t last long in your body. If you become pregnant soon after you stop taking it, your health and the health of the pregnancy will not be getting the benefits of the vitamin. For more information about folic acid, go to http://www.gofolic.org/facts/index.html.

Why does Beyaz have folic acid in it?
Since so many women don’t get enough of the vitamin for their general health and don’t take a separate multivitamin every day, the folic acid in the pill may help women’s health in general. Also, some women get pregnant when they are on the pill, mainly because of not taking it correctly. If this were to happen, the pregnancy would also get the benefits of the vitamin.

What if you were to get pregnant while taking Beyaz?
You should stop the pill and begin taking a multivitamin with at least 600 mcg of folic acid. Sometimes, a woman’s doctor will advise her to take up to 1000 mcg of folic acid during her pregnancy. This depends on the woman’s health and if she had any problems with past pregnancies.

If you like the hormonal birth control method you are using now, should you change to Beyaz?
There is no reason to change your method if you feel good on the hormones you are taking. You may not feel as good on Beyaz. All women are different.

What is important is to continue to use your hormonal method correctly and take a multivitamin every day. You should also do this even if you are not using a hormonal method. You need folic acid and all the rest of the vitamins that are included in a multivitamin for your health. And if you should want a baby someday, remember, it is important to begin taking the vitamins before you become pregnant!


Barbara Kass-Annese, RNCNP, MSN, is a clinician who has written extensively on the topic of vitamins and women’s health.  She also serves as a medical consultant to the Go Folic! Women’s Nutrition Project.