Greetings to our returning readers and to those of you who are new readers! We’re so happy that you joined us today for the next segment on our newest article series on the topic of pregnancy and periodontal disease. For those of you who have been following this blog for any period of time, you already know that Dr. David R. Scharf likes to educate his readers and patients in areas of general health because they are related to oral health, his realm of expertise. We welcome those of you who are new readers and encourage you to follow along with the subsequent segments as we take this topic in small bite sized pieces in the hope that you will learn something new or be able relate some old information to pregnancy. So, if you’ll follow along, we’ll get today’s segment started.
A Brief Review
As you may recall from part 1, our previous segment, we started with the basics of what periodontal and gum diseases are, explaining that they are rooted in bacterial induced inflammation which, when left untreated, can eat away at all of the oral tissues, especially those bony structures which support your teeth. We mentioned that not all bacteria is bad, stressing that the body needs good bacteria function properly. We explained some of the consequences of the bad bacterial growth that remains unchecked and listed some major diseases and health conditions which can result from this unchecked bad bacteria. We also mentioned two specific conditions which have a direct impact on pregnancy and the health of the onboard baby…low birth weight and preterm births. Today, our topic of discussion in this series is pre-term birth.
What Is Meant By “Pre-term” Birth?
Just to assure that we’re all on the same page, let me briefly define this term. It is basically a delivery which occurs earlier than 37 weeks of gestation. Pre-term births, also referred to as premature births, continue to increase each year, compromising the health of the newborn as well as the mother. Your baby needs 37 weeks of gestation to ensure that all systems, organs and tissue types have ample opportunity for development and growth so they’re able to safely support the vital functions of your infant after birth. Any birth which occurs prior to 37 weeks of gestation decreases or interferes with the body’s normal development process of your onboard infant, increasing the health risks both immediately after birth and potentially for life of your child.
What Causes Pre-term Birth?
The bacterial occupation in the oral tissues that we talked about in part 1 occurs in most of us. The problem exists when that bacterial infection gets mixed up with hormonal swings that accompany the various stages of pregnancy. The increased levels of estrogen and progesterone, which is circulating in the bloodstream, has an effect on the periodontal system and the maternal immune system which work together to promote inflammation. Studies are showing that this periodontal infection can lead to placental issues and subsequent fetal issues, causing an early delivery, potentially before some vital systems are completely developed. Additionally, animal studies strongly suggest that there is a link between maternal periodontal infection and adverse effects on the infant’s long term development after birth.
In our next segment, we will discuss low birth weight and its relationship to pregnancy and periodontal disease. In the meantime, it is vital for everyone to establish with a dental professional who can provide ongoing, routine dental care…especially if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Dr. Scharf wants to be your Periodontist in Long Island. In that role, he can identify and treat gum and periodontal disease in every member of your family. Contact us to schedule an appointment for treatment today!