Hello to all my loyal readers! This article is geared toward those of you who are either currently pregnant or plan to become pregnant in the future. I recently read an interesting article about the effects of gum disease on labor and I want to share this information with you. Today, we are going to discuss gum disease and how its presence in the mouth of the mother can affect the delivery of your unborn child.
Gum Disease and Labor
One would normally not consider gum disease to be something to be of concern when contemplating becoming pregnant. You probably wouldn’t even consider it an issue at any point in your pregnancy unless you’re aware that what goes on inside your mouth can be transmitted to other parts of your body. Since most people don’t realize that gum disease has any part at all in a pregnancy and delivery, we are going to talk about it today. A bit of research that came out of Cape Town, specifically from the University of Western Cape (UWC), has confirmed some issues that involve pregnancy and chronic inflammation of the gum tissues.
Professor Charlene Africa, from UWC’s department of medical biosciences evaluated oral swab specimens that were extracted from pregnant women in Rwanda and Kwa-Zulu-Natal (KZN). What she found in her query revealed that approximately 20 to 30 percent of the preterm deliveries were traceable back to bacteria from something she referred to as pregnancy-related gingivitis or gum disease. Her research showed that approximately 50 to 70 percent of pregnant women presented with some degree of periodontal disease!
This is a term that is defined as a progression of gingivitis, the earliest form of gum disease. This periodontitis is a disease that not only affects the gum tissues but also can cause bone loss as it advances. It is created by the abundance of plaque and bacteria that grows in the oral tissues and is the most commonly found cause of tooth loss if it goes untreated. The four-year study done by Professor Africa involved 200 mothers from Rwanda and about 400 from KZN. She accumulated samples of plaque and the records of the deliveries of the participants.
What she found was confirmation of a correlation between the various stages of gum diseases and preterm births! She focused on a group of bacteria known as the “red complex” and its association with periodontal disease. As we all have read, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel anywhere in the body that blood flows — including the uterus. This stimulates the production of prostaglandins which is a hormone-like lipid that is proven to control inflammation. But, the problem with this is the fact that these same prostaglandins can also play a role in childbirth by stimulating uterine contractions. Additionally, a similar study done at Duke University School of Medicine in the United States found a connection to the thinning of the chorion, which is a membrane that separates the mother from the developing fetus, and the buildup of bacteria.
So what’s the good news? Well, despite the controversy that surrounds treatment of various conditions and situations in pregnant women, it has been established that dentists can safely treat gingivitis during the second trimester of the pregnancy. So, ladies, it is vital for the health and well-being of both you and your baby for you to achieve and maintain as healthy a mouth as possible during your pregnancy. It is very important to report any oral changes to your dentist as early as possible. Your Long Island Periodontist can help you do this. Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or visit him on the web at http://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with laser instead of a scalpel.