Several epidemiological studies seem to support the theory that there is a link between periodontal disease in pregnant women and premature birth. For instance, one study suggested that pregnant women with periodontal disease are as much as seven times more likely to have babies that are born too early or have a relatively low birth weight.
Why does periodontal disease cause premature birth?
Although the connection between periodontal disease and premature birth seems clearly to be existing, researcher are still not certain about the reasons for this connection.
One theory is that periodontal disease triggers increased levels of the biological fluids that induce labor. In other words, the regulators that are supposed to send the message that birth is to begin are produced elsewhere in the body and the message is sent prematurely. Some of these regulators are called prostaglandins, and they can be produced by different diseases, among which is gum disease.
Another theory is that oral bacteria from the mother is transferred directly into the uterus, causing localized inflammation and adverse pregnancy outcome.
Maintain good oral health during pregnancy
Whatever the reason for the connection between gum disease and preterm birth, it is clear that it is crucial for pregnant mothers to maintain good oral hygiene through the whole pregnancy. Discomfort in connection with the pregnancy such as nausea may at times make it difficult to keep up the good oral hygiene habits from before the pregnancy, but with determination and good support from your dental health professional is it not impossible.
One advice that many pregnant mothers have benefitted from is to buy a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. If you suffer from nausea, a smaller toothbrush will make it easier to reach the teeth in the back of your mouth without causing too much discomfort. The soft bristles will also be more gentle on your gums, which might be extra sore during your pregnancy.
Some pregnant mothers experience more serious dental health problems during pregnancy, such as bleeding gums, loose teeth and bad breath despite frequent brushing. If you experience such problems, you might benefit from a visit to your dentist or dental hygienist. They can help evaluate the condition of your gums, make you aware of areas that you need to pay more attention to and teach you how to care for your own oral health and thereby the health of your baby.