Periodontal Disease and Pre-Term Delivery: New Findings

Reaching full term for pregnancy is usually calculated as between the start of the 39th week and end of 40th week. At this stage, the baby’s organs are fully mature, the baby will be less likely to have vision or hearing problems and will most likely thrive upon delivery.

While sometimes giving birth earlier can’t be helped, it’s known that some pre-term babies may face negative outcomes including feeding difficulties, immature immune systems and respiratory issues. That’s one of the reasons why we bring up a possible link between pre-term deliveries and gum disease, also known as periodontal disease.

Research Points to a Link Between Gum Disease and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes

In a nationwide study on periodontal disease and pregnancy, Taiwan researchers analyzed data from 1999 to 2012, with nearly two million women age 20-45 studied and broken into two groups, ones with periodontal disease and ones without. Results showed that women with periodontal disease prior to giving birth experienced  increased incidences of pre-term births and that the numbers of pre-term deliveries in those women with more advanced periodontal disease were even greater.

There are many other studies relating periodontal disease to adverse pregnancy outcomes. And we’ve already written about numerous studies that suggest a relationship between a variety of systemic issues like diabetes, cancer, dementia and heart disease and severe gum disease, known as periodontitis. It’s thought that periodontal disease pathogens can cause changes in the fetal/placental unit, leading to possible adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Improving Periodontal Health

If someone you love is pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, make sure they know that improving their oral health may help improve their smile and overall health but also the health of their unborn child. If gum disease is suspected (bleeding or sore gums, teeth that appear longer are some of the subtle signs), see one of our periodontists for an evaluation as soon as possible!