Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

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Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

pregnancyPeriodontal disease in pregnant mothers, according to research, exposes the unborn child to a variety of risks, in particular if the mother is also a diabetic.

Gum disease usually started with a bacterial infection in the gum tissue that destroys more and more tissue over time and sometimes the underlying bone as well. When left untreated, the infection causes inflammation and the pockets between teeth and gums can get very deep. The gums and even the jawbone itself recede. Eventually, the disease continues to the point that teeth get loose and are no longer stable, causing them to fall out.

Along with pregnancy comes a number of hormonal changes that increase an expectant mother’s risk of gum tissue inflammation, called gingivitis. These problems in the mouth have been connected through a number of research studies to preeclampsia as well as premature birth and babies with low birth weight. Expectant mothers who may have periodontal disease should seek quick and definitive treatment to reduce the chance of complications both before and after the birth and problems with the health of the child.

Explaining The Connection

A number of reasons may explain the connection between the health of a mother and her unborn child in relationship to periodontal disease. These include:
  • Prostaglandin: Gum disease seems to raise the level of prostaglandin in mothers who suffer from the most advanced forms of the condition. This labor-inducing chemical compound is found in one type of oral bacteria associated with periodontal disease. High levels of prostaglandin can result in a mother giving birth to a low birth weight child.
  • CRP or c-reactive protein: Also linked with heart disease, CRP is linked today with negative pregnancy outcomes, including premature birth and preeclampsia. Gum disease and its related infections can raise CRP levels and increase the natural inflammatory response in the body. Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and cause the liver to make CRP, leading in turn to inflammation of the arteries and even blood clots. These effects can cause blocked arteries and lead to heart attacks and strokes.
  • Bacteria spread: Bacteria that colonize in gum pockets can easily travel via the bloodstream to other parts of the body. In the case of pregnant women, research has shown that mouth bacteria and related pathogens can colonize in mammary glands and coronary arteries.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There is an array of available safe and non-surgical treatments for pregnant women who have gum disease. The most important thing is to stop the periodontal disease from progressing so that a safe and healthy delivery of the baby can occur.

First, the dentist will determine the condition of the jawbone and gums and then make a precise diagnosis. The most common treatments recommended are scaling and root planing to remove the bacteria and toxins from the pockets between gums and teeth.

This treatment alone can reduce the risk of complications during the pregnancy by up to 50 percent, plus this treatments can alleviate the harmful and unpleasant impacts of gum disease and periodontal infection for the mother.

The dentist can offer education and make recommendations to pregnant women relating to effective home care to reduce the risks to the mother and the child. Proper home care as well as stopping smoking, making dietary changes and taking vitamins can vastly reduce periodontal disease and the risks from it.

You deserve accurate information. For questions or concerns about pregnancy and periodontal disease, call (619) 640-5100 for a free consultation with Dr. Paige Woods, DDS.