Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

Research has demonstrated that expectant mothers with periodontal disease, especially those who also have diabetes, expose their unborn child to various risks.

Periodontal disease typically starts with a bacterial infection in the gum tissue, progressively damaging both the gums and the underlying bone. If left untreated, the infection triggers inflammation, leading to deeper gum pockets and gum and jawbone recession. Over time, this progressive disease causes teeth to loosen, become unstable, and eventually fall out.

Pregnancy brings hormonal changes that increase the expectant mother's vulnerability to gingivitis (gum tissue inflammation) and periodontal disease. These oral issues have been linked in numerous studies to complications such as preeclampsia, low birth weight, and premature birth. It is crucial for pregnant women to seek immediate treatment for periodontal disease to reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy and after childbirth.

Reasons for the Connection

Periodontal disease can impact the health of both the mother and her unborn child due to various factors:

  1. Prostaglandin: Advanced periodontal disease can increase prostaglandin levels in expectant mothers. This labor-inducing compound, produced by certain oral bacteria associated with periodontitis, may lead to premature birth and low birth weight.

  2. C-reactive protein (CRP): Elevated levels of CRP, a protein linked to heart disease, have been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes like preeclampsia and premature birth. Periodontal infections raise CRP levels, intensifying the body's inflammatory response. Oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream, causing the liver to produce CRP, which leads to inflamed arteries and potential blood clots. These inflammatory effects can contribute to blocked arteries, increasing the risk of strokes or heart attacks.

  3. Bacteria spread: Bacteria colonizing in the gum pockets can easily travel through the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body. Research has shown that oral bacteria and pathogens have been found in the internal mammary glands and coronary arteries of pregnant women.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There are many safe, non surgical treatment options available for pregnant women.  It is of paramount importance to halt the progress of periodontal disease in order to increase the chances of a safe and healthy delivery.

Initially, the dentist will assess the exact condition of the gums and jawbone in order to make a precise diagnosis.  Scaling and root planing are two common non-surgical procedures used to rid the tooth-root surfaces of calculus (tartar) and remove the bacterial toxins from the gum pockets.

With treatment, the risks of pregnancy complications caused by periodontal disease are reduced by as much as 50%, and these treatments will alleviate many unpleasant and harmful effects associated with gingivitis and periodontal infection.

Dentists can provide education and recommendations to pregnant women about effective home care which can reduce risks that may affect her and/or her child’s health. Risks of periodontal disease can be vastly reduced by proper home care, smoking cessation, dietary changes, and the ingestion of supplementary vitamins.

If you have any questions or concerns about periodontal disease and its affect on pregnancy, please contact our practice.

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