An increasing number of studies are confirming a close association between periodontal diseases and complications in pregnancy.
There seems to be a positive correlation between periodontal disease and preterm birth. The infection of the gums can travel to the fetus which may give rise to a fetal inflammatory response. This often leads to a preterm delivery. The complications may not end with the delivery; periodontal infections may continue to bring about long-term adverse effects on the development of the infant as well.
Pregnancy does not automatically cause damage to your teeth. But during pregnancy, the fluctuating hormones can affect the way that your body responds to the plaque on your teeth. Periodontal disease generally starts as a bacterial infection in the gingival tissue which can even move to the underlying bone. The infection triggers an inflammatory reaction in the body, widening the space between the teeth and gums and causing the gums to recede. Severe periodontal disease can even cause the teeth to become loose and fall out.
However, with proper oral hygiene at home and regular checkups with the dentist, you can maintain the health of your teeth throughout pregnancy and protect the growing baby from any associated complications.
Reasons why periodontal disease causes pregnancy complications
According to estimates by researchers, 18 out of every hundred premature births may possibly be triggered by periodontal disease. Babies are born with low birth weight, and may also be at risk for a range of problems related to hearing, eyesight, and even cerebral palsy.
There are several reasons why periodontal disease affects the health of the mother and the fetus.
Spread of bacteria
Periodontal disease is nothing but chronic bacterial infection of the gums. The bacteria that colonize the gum pockets easily travel to other parts of the body via the bloodstream. Bacteria and other pathogens may also colonize in the coronary arteries and mammary glands of pregnant women.
Elevated levels of prostaglandin
In severe cases of periodontal disease, the levels of prostaglandin may get elevated. Prostaglandins are hormone like substances that participate in a variety of body functions including the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscles. Elevated levels may induce labor and cause the mother to prematurely deliver a baby with low birthweight.
C – Reactive Protein
C – Reactive Protein or CRP has been linked to cardiovascular diseases, and now is also seen to be associated with pregnancy complications such as premature birth and pre-eclampsia. Gum infections tend to elevate the CRP levels, intensifying the natural inflammatory response of the body. A series of reactions can lead to inflamed arteries and even blood clots which block arteries, causing severe complications.
Dental treatment while pregnant
Along with the many other things that you do to take care of your health during pregnancy, pay special attention to dental care as well. Pregnancy definitely affects the nature of dental treatments. When you’re visiting a dentist, make sure to tell her that you are pregnant because dental x-rays need to be avoided during this time.
There are many safe dental treatment options that are available for pregnant women. It is of utmost importance to stop periodontal disease in its tracks to improve the chances of a happy pregnancy and healthy delivery.
Reduce the risk of periodontal disease
Visit your dentist for a checkup even if you do not have a gum infection. The dentist will assess the health of your gums and jawbone. You could also get your teeth cleaned to get rid of the tartar and bacterial toxins from the gum pockets. This itself can reduce the risk of periodontal disease to a great extent.
You can prevent gum infection by brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing between your teeth, and eating healthy. Take the necessary prenatal vitamins and also stop smoking to further reduce your risk. Consider using a prescription mouth rinse to reduce the bacteria buildup in your mouth.
If you notice gum infection, visit your dentist as soon as possible. The earlier you treat the problem, the better your chances of a healthy pregnancy.