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Pregnancy: preterm and low-weight birth

One of the most exciting times of your life is when you are expecting your baby. It is also a time when your health is paramount. As your pregnancy evolves, your body is constantly changing to accommodate your baby’s needs. Although you may not be aware of any noticeable changes, your teeth and gums are also affected by your pregnancy.

It is estimated that approximately 50% of pregnant women experience pregnancy gingivitis. This can be uncomfortable and cause swelling, bleeding, redness or tenderness of the gum tissue. Consequently, periodontal disease may develop and affect the health of your baby.

Is preterm low birth-weight babies linked to periodontal disease?

Ongoing research studies have demonstrated a correlation between periodontal disease and preterm and low birth-weight babies.

Several studies have indicated pregnant women with periodontal disease may be up to seven times more likely to have a baby preterm and with a low birth-weight. One likely explanation is a chemical found in oral bacteria called prostaglandin, which can induce labour. Very high levels of prostaglandin have been detected in women with severe cases of periodontal disease.

What if I have periodontal disease during pregnancy?

Periodontal disease is a very treatable and reversible condition, if you have periodontal disease during pregnancy Dr James may recommend a common non-surgical procedure known as scaling and root planning.

This is a very safe procedure, where your tooth-root surfaces are cleaned to remove plaque and tartar build-up from deep in the periodontal pockets and smooth the root to remove the bacterial toxins. Research results indicate that scaling and root planing may reduce the risk of preterm births in pregnant women with periodontal disease. The added bonus is that the procedure should alleviate many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with pregnancy gingivitis, including swelling, redness and gum tenderness.