Pregnant? See Your Dentist
WebMD News Archive
Left untreated, the infection can spin out of control, causing tooth loss. The infections also require the body to mount a major battle, as the surface area of such infections can be as large as the palm of the hand, Jeffcoat tells WebMD.
It is the body's response to the infection that could cut a pregnancy short, Jeffcoat says. In response to bacterial attack, the body produces molecules called cytokines and prostaglandins that help it battle the invading bugs. But the same molecules can also tell the uterus that it's time to deliver, Jeffcoat says.
"I think it's exciting work that has a lot of merit," Hugh Randall, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, says of the study. But "what we don't know is whether treating women with periodontal disease during pregnancy is going to make a difference."
Jeffcoat's team has begun a study to find out, testing to see whether specialized periodontal cleaning, or specialized periodontal cleaning plus antibiotic treatment, could prevent premature births.
In the meantime, she recommends that pregnant women brush, floss, and see their dentists regularly. For pregnant women with periodontal disease, Jeffcoat recommends that dentists conduct a procedure called scaling and root planing, which cleans out the pocket between the tooth and gum, during the second trimester. For more information, see www.perio.org or www.ada.org.
- A new study shows that women with serious cases of periodontal disease are far more likely to deliver premature babies.
- Periodontal disease occurs when a bacterial infection between the teeth separates the teeth from the gums, creating a pocket for more bacteria to grow.
- The molecules that the body uses to attack the infection are the same ones that can tell the uterus it's time to deliver; this may explain why the disease is associated with premature delivery.