Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

Researchers have shown that periodontal disease in expectant mothers actually exposes their unborn child to many different risks, particularly if they also happen to be diabetes sufferers.

Periodontal disease generally begins with a bacterial infection in the gum (gingival) tissue, which progressively destroys the tissue and the underlying bone.  If left untreated, the bacterial infection causes an inflammatory reaction in the body, which can significantly deepen the gum pockets (space between the teeth and gums), and forces the gum and jawbone to recede.  Eventually, the progressive nature of periodontal disease causes the teeth to become loose and unstable, and eventually fall out.

Pregnancy causes many hormonal changes which increase the risk of the expectant mother to develop gingivitis (inflammation of the gum tissue) and periodontal disease.  These oral problems have been linked in many research studies to preeclampsia, low birth weight of the baby and premature birth.  Expectant women should seek immediate treatment for periodontal disease in order to reduce the risk of pre-natal and post-natal complications.

Reasons for the Connection

There are many different reasons why periodontal disease may affect the health of the mother and her unborn child:

  • Prostaglandin – Periodontal disease appears to elevate levels of prostaglandin in mothers who are suffering from the more advanced forms of the condition.  Prostaglandin is a labor-inducing compound found in one of the oral bacteria strains associated with periodontitis.  Elevated levels of prostaglandin can cause the mother to give birth prematurely and deliver a baby with a low birth weight.

  • C - reactive protein (CRP) – This protein, which has been previously linked to heart disease, has now been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes including preeclampsia and premature birth.  Periodontal infections elevate C-reactive protein levels and amplify the body’s natural inflammatory response.  Periodontal bacteria may enter the bloodstream causing the liver to produce CRP which leads to inflamed arteries as well as possible blood clots.  These inflammatory effects can then lead to blocked arteries causing strokes or heart attacks.

  • Bacteria spread – The bacteria which colonize in the gum pockets can readily travel through the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body.  In pregnant women, research has found that oral bacteria and associated pathogens have colonized in the internal mammary glands and coronary arteries.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There are many safe, non surgical treatment options available for pregnant women.  It is of paramount importance to halt the progress of periodontal disease in order to increase the chances of a safe and healthy delivery.

Initially, the dentist will assess the exact condition of the gums and jawbone in order to make a precise diagnosis.  Scaling and root planing are two common non-surgical procedures used to rid the tooth-root surfaces of calculus (tartar) and remove the bacterial toxins from the gum pockets.

With treatment, the risks of pregnancy complications caused by periodontal disease are reduced by as much as 50%, and these treatments will alleviate many unpleasant and harmful effects associated with gingivitis and periodontal infection.

Dentists can provide education and recommendations to pregnant women about effective home care which can reduce risks that may affect her and/or her child’s health. Risks of periodontal disease can be vastly reduced by proper home care, smoking cessation, dietary changes, and the ingestion of supplementary vitamins.

If you have any questions or concerns about periodontal disease and its affect on pregnancy, please contact our practice.

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I was not sure what to expect when I decided to try straightening my teeth for my daughter's wedding. There were only three months until the wedding and I really did not believe there would be significant results in such a short period of time. Furthermore, with a wedding in the near future, I was hesitant because I was not sure financially that this would be possible. I was extremely happy after meeting with Dr. Wiele and hearing what could be done with my teeth with the funds I had available. The entire three months went so quickly and the results were beautiful. I was amazed when the braces came off a week before the wedding and my teeth looked so straight and beautiful. The photographer did not have to ask me to smile for the pictures! If you would like to improve your smile, no matter what the reason or the financial situation, talk to Dr. Wiele and his staff. I'm sure glad I did!

Sharron Estes

Thank you all so much for going out of your way to perfect my smile. Everyone is always so wonderful to be around, it makes going to the dentist a fun experience. My teeth look wonderful and I am very pleased with the results. Thank you so much again for everything you have done and everything you continue to do.

Jill Bernard

I would like to thank Dr. Wiele and his staff for an unbelievable dental experience. I went from being terrified of dental work to actually being able to relax and rest in the chair. Thanks for the miracle you worked with my smile. I am truly grateful and realize I smile more than ever. I never knew it would look this awesome. You really are gifted from above!

Rodney Mills

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