Is Periodontitis Associated with Preterm Birth?

Premature Baby

The Importance of Oral Health During Pregnancy

Periodontal disease, or periodontitis, is caused by infections and inflammation of the gums and bone that support the teeth. In the U.S., 47.2% of adults 30 or older have some form of periodontal disease. If it is left untreated, it can lead to issues like tooth loss. Periodontal disease begins as gingivitis, which occurs when plaque and bacteria build up on the teeth. According to the CDC, nearly 60-75% of pregnant women have gingivitis. This could be due to the fact that pregnancy causes hormonal changes that increase the risk of gingivitis and eventually, periodontal disease. Symptoms of periodontitis include:

  • Persistent bad breath
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Receding gums

Not only does periodontitis cause these unpleasant symptoms, but it can increase your risk of other health issues, such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. While these consequences are often talked about, the consequence that many people don’t know about is that periodontal disease in pregnant women can lead to preterm birth and low birth weight in babies.

Risk of Periodontal Disease in Pregnant Women

Several studies have shown that women with periodontal disease are more likely to deliver babies prematurely or who have a lower birth weight than mothers who do not have gum disease. These premature babies are more likely to suffer from health issues like infections, asthma, and feeding issues. They also have a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). We now understand that maintaining your periodontal health helps women maintain a healthy pregnancy and avoid these issues. For women who have periodontal disease, scaling and planing can reduce the risk of preterm births. This service also provides some relief from the unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis.

How to Prevent Periodontal Disease

Even though gum disease is common, it is preventable. One of the best ways to prevent periodontal disease is to come in for your regular dental cleaning. For most people, this should be twice a year, but the exact duration of time between visits will vary from person to person. At Integrated Dental Care, we provide dental cleanings with a focus on preventative care. Our goal is to protect our patients from gum disease and tooth decay, and we are committed to showing patients how to care for their teeth. Between appointments, some of the ways patients can protect their oral health and prevent gum disease include:

  • Flossing daily

If you have ever been to the dentist, then you have probably been told about the importance of flossing. When you floss, you are able to clean the gaps between your teeth where there are bacteria. If this bacterium is not removed, plaque can accumulate in the area, leading to cavities, tooth decay, and periodontal disease.

  • Quitting smoking

Doctors advise women who are pregnant to quit smoking for the health of the baby, but quitting smoking is also a great way to improve gum health. Smoking increases your risk of gum disease and makes it harder to treat if they develop it. Smoking weakens the body’s ability to fight off infections like gum disease. Nicotine also restricts blood flow to the gums, so smokers might not notice or even show the warning signs of gum disease, making it more likely to progress and lead to unpleasant complications like tooth loss.

  • Brushing teeth twice daily

Brushing twice daily helps prevent plaque and tartar from building up in the gum area and causing gum disease. To brush your teeth properly, place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. Move the brush back and forth in short strokes. Brush the outer areas, inner areas, and chewing areas.

  • Using a therapeutic, antimicrobial mouthwash

Therapeutic, antimicrobial mouthwashes help control plaque, gingivitis, and tooth decay, and they are backed by the American Dental Association. Studies have shown that microbial mouthwashes kill a wide range of microorganisms within 30 seconds. This makes them a great way to keep gum issues at bay in between appointments.

Protecting yourself from periodontal disease is great for your health and for pregnant women, it is great for the health of the baby as well. To learn more about how to prevent or treat periodontal disease, call Integrated Dental Care at (610) 600-9745 or contact us online.

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