SAN ANTONIO – The links between gum disease and such serious, life-threatening conditions as heart disease, diabetes and other systemic diseases are well-established. It’s less well-known, however, that researchers in recent years have discovered strong links between pregnancy and oral health.
From fertility – the ability to become pregnant – to protecting the baby from premature birth, low birth weight, and even neonatal death, recent research shows that gum disease is a vital concern from conception through breastfeeding, according to veteran San Antonio cosmetic dentist Dr. Ed Camacho, DDS.
“While we are concerned about any ongoing infection and its impact on health, research is showing how important it is to have healthy teeth and gums throughout the pregnancy timeline,” Dr. Camacho said, noting that a visit to the dentist is an important part of the preparation for pregnancy and the prenatal period. “If a patient is pregnant or trying to get pregnant we do counsel them on the need for good oral hygiene including professional cleanings.”
Effects on fertility
Women with gum disease take an average of two months longer to become pregnant than those with healthy teeth and gums, according to a major new research study by Dr. Roger Hart, professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Western Australia. The study of about 3500 women was reported at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology at the beginning of July 2011
Hart found that the women without gum disease took an average of 5 months to get pregnant, while those with gum disease took 7 months. When separated by race, non-Caucasian women with gum disease took over a year to get pregnant.
“All women should . . . be encouraged to see their dentist to have any gum disease treated before trying to conceive. It is easily treated, usually involving no more than four dental visits,” Hart said. He also said that studies show that the treatment of periodontal disease does not harm mothers or babies.
Premature births, low birth weights
Researchers have found that gum disease is a significant factor in premature births and low birth weights, which have risen about 20 percent over the past two decades. A University of North Carolina Hospital study publicized in early 2010 showed that women with gum disease are seven times more likely to have low-birth weight infants that those with healthy teeth.
Complicating dental care during pregnancy is that hormonal changes in the mother make it highly likely she will develop some level of gum disease. Scientists estimate that between half to three-quarters of all pregnant women develop “pregnancy gingivitis,” which in turn can affect the pregnancy itself. This makes it crucial that pregnant women continue with regular dental visits and cleanings, Dr.Camacho said.
An early delivery or a low birth weight – defined as less than 5 pounds 8 ounces – increases risks of a number of conditions harmful to the child, including respiratory distress, bleeding in the brain, heart and intestinal problems, and serious eye problems.
And there may be even more serious issues with gum disease and prenatal health. While scientists say there is no cause for immediate alarm, in a case in 2010, researchers for the first time have definitely linked a mother’s gum disease to the death of her unborn child. Officials said the bacteria from the diseased gums entered the blood system through broken skin, and was carried to the fetus. The exact strain from the mother’s gums was found in the deceased baby’s lungs and stomach.
Your gums and breastfeeding
And finally, there is still a need for heightened attention to the gums and teeth after delivery. While experts overwhelmingly support human breast milk for as the healthiest start for the newborn, there is at least one potential problem for the mother: calcium deficiency. The creation and delivery of human breast milk depletes the amount of calcium the mother has available for her own nutritional needs. This can start leaching bone mass from the mother, including the jaw bone. If the calcium supply is not being continually renewed, studies show, the mother can develop problems.
Nursing mothers are encouraged to continue all ongoing oral health practices, including brushing and flossing and dental visits. They also should drink milk, eat high-calcium green leafy vegetables, and food enriched with calcium and Vitamin D.
Cosmetic Dentistry of San Antonio (https://cosmeticdentistryofsa.com)
Cosmetic Dentistry of San Antonio is a full-service cosmetic dental practice, specializing in Invisalign transparent braces, top-quality veneers, teeth whitening and traditional orthodontics, as well as a full line of restorative procedures and preventative care.
16535 Huebner (at Bitters) Suite 102
Valencia Village Shopping Center
San Antonio, Texas 78248
Media Contact: June Camacho