Last week, I hosted a charity art auction

in the Hamptons to benefit United Cerebral Palsy. In addition to raising funds, this event helped spread the word about what can be done to prevent birth defects. As the father of three, I know there is nothing more wonderful than a healthy new baby, but unfortunately, not all babies are born that way.

The good news is that today, there are things that pregnant moms can do to increase their chances for a normal, healthy little one and that means carrying their baby to term. Pre-term, low-weight babies (PLWB) who are born before their time are at much higher risk for a wide variety of mild to severe health problems because they have not had time to fully mature. These include everything from minor developmental and motor disorders to cerebral palsy and other problems, some of which can be fatal.

Most pregnant women know that smoking, alcohol consumption and drug use are risk factors that science has shown contributes to PLWB. Recently researchers have cited a new culprit --periodontal disease. Studies show that pregnant women with this condition (which is the technical name for gum disease) are seven times more likely to have a baby that is born too early. It is thought that periodontal disease

triggers higher levels of certain fluids that actually induce labor. And some studies show that if a woman's gum disease worsens during the course of her pregnancy, her risk for a premature baby is even higher.

I recommend to all my patients who are considering getting pregnant that they have a complete periodontal checkup. During pregnancy, it's important to step up oral care. This means seeing your dentist for a comprehensive cleaning once a trimester. Then at home, using a soft brush and toothpaste that is not alcohol or chemical based, brush and floss after each meal - a minimum of three times a day. Finally, follow what I call the Four Cornerstones for Oral Health. These are important for everyone but twice as important during pregnancy because moms are maintaining the health of two (or sometimes more!)

1) Stop using any oral care products that contain harmful chemicals or are alcohol and/or detergent based.

2) Eat healthy with an emphasis on natural foods that have alkalizing, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich properties like salmon, blueberries and other fruits and vegetables.

3) Reduce stress, which can negatively impact both the mouth and body.

4)

Exercise regularly, which will help improve circulation, strengthen the

immune system and reduce stress.

These guidelines are easy to incorporate into your life. Not only will you be healthier, but when it comes to payoffs, a healthy normal baby is the best there can be.

For more information about oral care products that are not detergent, chemical or alcohol based, go to DrGerry.net