Healthy Teeth Help Moms Get Pregnant

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by Pregnancy.org Staff

In the news: "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. Edward Camacho, DDS.

Dr. Camacho believes that the link between gum disease and other life-threatening conditions like heart disease, diabetes and other systemic diseases is well-known. What's new "news" is the link between pregnancy and oral health.

“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 says. He continues, “If a patient is pregnant or trying to get pregnant we do counsel them on the need for good oral hygiene including professional cleanings.”

What are the 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.

What about premature births and low birth weights?

Researchers say 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.

Hormonal changes during pregnancy complicate dental care. Those changes make it highly likely the mother 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 says.

"Poor oral health is usually the last thing most women would suspect in having adverse affects on getting pregnant or having a baby with low birth weight,” Dr. Camacho continues. “The mindset that the teeth don't really have anything to do overall health is slowly going by the wayside. As a dentist it is part of my job to educate patients about oral health and it is my commitment as a health practitioner to provide patients with data on overall wellness."

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