Mar 06

Can Gum Disease Affect My Unborn Baby?

Yes,  untreated gum disease, particulary chronic periodontal disease, increases  inflammatory markers called prostaglandins.  These blood chemistry markers can be 8 to 20 times higher in people with chronic periodontal disease.  Some studies have demonstrated that many women who have low birth rate babies or premature babies have very raised prostaglandin levels.  One reason these blood markers may be raised is because of the body’s long term fight against the bacteria involved in periodontal disease.  The prostaglandin levels that are raised are believed to cause the low birth weight or early deliveries.  This idea is not a far reach because after all, OB-GYN doctors will use a prostaglandin type gel to induce uterine contractions and dilatation of a women’s cervix during induced deliveries.

A leading OB-GYN from the University of California has stated “I would love to see every woman who is contemplating pregnancy to get  preconception care that includes an oral health check-up”.   My main dental office is right next to an OB-GYN practice and has been for 21 years.  Sadly, I have not had a single referral for one of these preconception check-ups.  Possibly more unfortunate, though, is that I have had to call to get medical clearance from some OB-GYNs in order to treat dental abscesses on some pregnant women.  All of these were for problems which could have been easily avoided and most definitely would have been caught on an earlier comprehensive dental exam before the pregnancy.   Another leading doctor from the University of Pittsburg who is an obstetric  infectious disease specialist and a professor of reproductive services has stated “gingivitis can increase the risk of  pretermed birth from 2 to 7 times and that pregnant women with bleeding gums should see their dentist”.

This dentist dispite the apathy of surrounding medical professionals near me will continue to adocate the idea of a preconception exam.   We all live very busy lives however,  it is ironic that more time will probably be spent on preparing the baby’s living quarters after it is born than on preconception or prenatal care in its first room within the mother.