Periodontal Disease Causes Preterm Labor and Low Birthweight Infants

The test came back and it’s positive – you’re pregnant. Congratulations! Your mind is filled with excitement, and you have created a “to-do list for the new addition to your life.” While you and your questions continue to grow, it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure an on-time and above all, safe arrival of your most precious cargo yet.

You’ve probably heard a few old wives’ tales about pregnancy, including “A tooth lost for every child.” it seems far-fetched, it actually is based loosely in fact. Your teeth and gums are affected by pregnancy, just as other cells in your body. You may not be aware that the health of your gums may also affect the health of your baby-to-be, depending on the relative health of your gums and mouth.

How Does Pregnancy Affect the Health of Your Teeth and Gums?

About half of women experience pregnancy gingivitis. This condition can be uncomfortable and cause swelling, bleeding, redness or tenderness in the gum tissue. Most women have heard of this and just take it for granted as inconsequential. On the other hand, a more advanced oral health condition called periodontal disease (a serious gum infection that destroys attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold teeth in the mouth) may affect the health of your baby. This can be a very serious health risk to your unborn child.

Is Periodontal Disease (chronic gum infection) linked to preterm, low birthweight babies?

Multiple independent studies have shown a relationship between chronic gum disease and preterm, low birthweight babies. In fact, pregnant women with periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that’s born too early and too small.

The likely culprit is a labor-inducing chemical found in oral bacteria called prostaglandin. This sounds like a fancy name for a seemingly unimportant compound in our bodies. Prostaglandins are hormone-like chemicals with very profound importance to our well-being.  Not very surprisingly, high levels of prostaglandin are found in women with severe cases of periodontal disease.

What if I’m diagnosed with Periodontal Disease during my pregnancy?

If you’re diagnosed with periodontal disease, I would do a thorough evaluation and recommend a common non-surgical procedure called scaling and root planing. During this procedure, your tooth-root surfaces are cleaned to remove plaque and tartar from deep gum pockets and smooth the root to remove bacterial toxins. You most likely are unaware you even have  this detrimental dental condition.

Research suggests that scaling and root planing may reduce the risk of preterm births in pregnant women with periodontal disease. The added bonus is that the procedure should alleviate many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with pregnancy gingivitis, such as swelling and tenderness of the gums. Everybody wins! Both you and your soon to be born baby.

So, remember to visit our office for routine preventive dental care before and during your pregnancy. This baby step benefits you and your unborn baby.

Premature Births: The answers can’t come soon enough.

According to the medical researchers, premature births have soared to become the number one obstetric problem in the United States. Many premature babies come into the world with serious health problems. Those who survive may suffer life-long consequences, from cerebral palsy and mental retardation to blindness.

So visit us at Gentle Dental Care on a regular schedule. Utilize sedation/sleep dentistry if that will help you in obtaining care. We treat hundreds of patients under anesthesia or just with local anesthetic (novocaine) annually for periodontal disease before they become pregnant.

Some day both you and your developing child will be happy you made the right choice and obtained treatment for this treatable and preventable disease.

Thomas J. Peltzer, DMD                                                         

About Dr. Thomas J. Peltzer, DMD

Dr. Peltzer is a Sedation Dental Specialist serving patients throughout the state of CT, MA, RI and NY.
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