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
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
"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
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
- 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.