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Dental and medical professionals have long warned pregnant women that gum disease can have a negative affect on pregnancy and the health of the baby. Research has shown a strong correlation between gingivitis in the carrying mother and risk for low birth weight. Gum disease severely increases the risk for an underweight baby and premature birth; in fact the risk of preterm birth rises anywhere from two to seven times in mothers suffering from periodontal diseases. Laboratory studies are still figuring out exactly what the causality is, but there is definite evidence of a connection between gum disease and babies being born too early and too small.
Women who suffer from gum disease have an increased risk for infection, and when pregnant, this infection risk can be extended to the unborn child. There has been at least one recorded case of a gum disease infection in the mother linked to the occurrence of a still birth. Researchers found a connection between a bacterial strain found in the baby’s lungs and digestive tract and the plaque and bacteria samples from the mother’s teeth. Because gingivitis can cause bleeding in the gums, this makes it easy for bacteria from the mouth to enter the blood stream. Once in the blood stream, bacteria can travel throughout the body and can even colonize in the uterus or placenta. In the womb, the placenta and unborn baby are especially susceptible to bacterial infections, so it is important for mothers to take care of all aspects of their health to keep their baby’s safe and protected.
Experts have also found a link between gum disease and the amount of time it may take to get pregnant. Research in fertility has shown that women with forms of periodontal disease take an average of two months longer to get pregnant than those without gum problems. In a recent study conducted, women without gum disease took five months to conceive while women suffering from gum disease took more than seven. The study also highlighted that among non-Caucasian women, 13.9 percent of those with gum disease took longer than a year to get pregnant, while only 6.2 percent of non-Caucasian women without gum disease took that long. The reason why periodontal disease may affect the chances of getting pregnant has to do with the inflammation it causes. While we normally associate the irritation and inflammation of gum disease with the problems isolated in the mouth, some women may have a higher inflammatory response which could have an affect on the entire body including the reproductive systems.
Because gum disease can have such a strong affect on the ability to conceive and on the health of the baby, it is important for women who may be pregnant or are trying to become pregnant to take care of their oral hygiene. Brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups can all reduce the chances of getting gum disease and the pregnancy risks associated with it.