Earlier this year, we pointed you towards a study of a potential link between oral bacteria and stillbirth, where gingival bleeding (bleeding gums) introduced pathogenic microbes through blood circulation and ultimately to the fetus, via the placenta. New research published in the Journal of Periodontology suggests a similar link between periodontal disease and preterm birth, again due to the role of infection.
The researchers measured periodontal pathogens in the mouths of 268 pregnant women using a method called the BANA test, which is able to detect P. gingivalis and two other key microbes involved in gum disease. Each woman was also given a comprehensive periodontal exam, and the outcome of her birth recorded once it occured. The research team found that
the number of BANA infected sites in the third trimester, [Odds ratio (OR) = 5.89, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.5-31.6], maternal weight gain (OR = 0.78, 95% CI = 0.65-0.91), antepartum hemorrhage (OR = 10.0, 95% CI = 2.2-46.9) and preterm premature rupture of membrane (OR = 12.6, 95% CI = 3.97-42.71 had a significant influence on preterm birth outcomes.
The association of infection with preterm birth held up even after controlling for other risk factors.
Thus, recommendations from our earlier post still applies:
It’s vital that expectant women have a dentist check their teeth and gums both during and after pregnancy. But most put off visits to the dentist. According to a study published in the Journal of Perinatal Medicine, only 38% of women with bleeding gums during their pregnancy sought dental care – in part, it seems, because they didn’t see the bleeding as a sign of a dental problem. It’s best to let a dentist determine this. Just be sure your dentist knows that you are pregnant so that no procedures are done that could hurt the health of your developing child.
For more on dental health and care during pregnancy, check out this helpful tip sheet from WebMD.