Pregnant? Your Teeth Could Cause Preterm Delivery

Photo: Shutterstock / The Bump Photo: Shutterstock / The Bump

A recent study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that gum disease, known as periodontal disease (an inflammatory chronic condition that attacks gums and bones surrounding teeth) can lead to preterm labor for mom and a low-birth weight for baby.

Researchers included in the study defined low-birth weight was defined as under 2500 grams, or 5 pounds, 5 pounces and preterm labor as anything happening at or before 37 weeks. At 37 weeks, baby is practicing inhaling, exhaling, sucking, gripping and blinking and he’s also getting his first sticky poop (called meconium) ready for his first diaper.

To find out just how chronically inflamed gums cold have the ability to cause such adverse outcomes for mom and baby, researchers studied two possible pathways that could affect a pregnant woman’s teeth. The first, they noted, was a direct pathway by which oral microorganisms were able to reach baby in-utero and the second, which was much more indirect, found that inflammatory “mediators” were circulating in the body and were able to impact baby by being in the body.

What does periodontal disease look like — and what symptoms should you look out for? The Huffington Post spoke with Dr. Nancy L. Newhouse, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a practicing periodontist, who said that, “Tenderness, redness and swollen gums are a few indications of periodontal disease. Other symptoms include gums that bleed with tooth brushing or eating, gums that are pulling away from the teeth, bad breath and loose teeth. These signs, especially during pregnancy, should not be ignored and may require treatment from a dental professional.

Although it may sound dated, from 2007 to 2009, the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System noted that more than 56 percent of women admitted that they never visited their dentist throughout their pregnancy — and 35 percent admitted they hadn’t had a dental visit within the last year.

Brushing, flossing and other periodontal therapies have been shown as safe interventions that can help improve periodontal conditions for moms-to-be. In more severe cases, antibiotics can be used, however, researchers noted that these systemic antibiotics won’t reduce the overall preterm birth rates and low birth weights. Regular trips to the dentist throughout pregnancy can also help women ward off the inflammation.

Did you take care of your teeth during pregnancy?

Plus, more from The Bump:

Why Every Week Matters in Late Pregnancy

What Can I Do to Lower My Risk of Preterm Labor?

Should You be Worried About an Early-Term Delivery?