Researchers have shown that periodontal disease in expectant mothers exposes their unborn children to many different risks, particularly if the mothers also happen to be diabetes sufferers.
Periodontal disease generally begins with a bacterial infection in the gum (gingival) tissue. The progressive infection destroys the tissue and the underlying bone. If left untreated, the bacterial infection causes an inflammatory reaction in the body. This infection can significantly deepen the gum pockets (space between the teeth and gums). This forces the gum and jawbone to recede. Eventually, periodontal disease causes the teeth to become loose and unstable and fall out.
Pregnancy causes many hormonal changes, which increase the risk of the expectant mother to develop gingivitis (inflammation of the gum tissue) and periodontal disease. These oral problems have been linked in many research studies to preeclampsia, low birth weight, and premature birth. Therefore, expectant women should seek immediate treatment for periodontal disease to reduce the risk of prenatal and postnatal complications.
Reasons for the Connection
There are many different reasons why periodontal disease may affect the health of the mother and her unborn child, such as:
- Prostaglandin– Periodontal disease appears to elevate levels of prostaglandin in mothers with more advanced forms of the condition. Prostaglandin is a labor-inducing compound found in one of the oral bacteria strains associated with periodontitis. Elevated levels of prostaglandin can cause the mother to give birth prematurely and deliver a baby with a low birth weight.
- C-reactive protein (CRP)– This protein has been linked to heart disease. It also has been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preeclampsia and premature birth. Periodontal infections elevate C-reactive protein levels and amplify the body’s natural inflammatory response. Periodontal bacteria also may enter the bloodstream, causing the liver to produce CRP. This leads to inflamed arteries and possibly blood clots. These inflammatory effects can then lead to blocked arteries, causing strokes or heart attacks.
- Bacteria spread– The bacteria that colonize in the gum pockets can readily travel through the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body. In pregnant women, research has found that oral bacteria and associated pathogens have colonized in the internal mammary glands and coronary arteries.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There are many safe, nonsurgical treatment options available for pregnant women. It is crucial to halt the progress of periodontal disease to increase the chances of a safe and healthy delivery.
Initially, the dentist will assess the exact condition of the gums and jawbone to make a precise diagnosis. Scaling and root planing are two common nonsurgical procedures to rid the tooth-root surfaces of calculus (tartar). They also remove the bacterial toxins from the gum pockets.
Treatment reduces the risks of pregnancy complications caused by periodontal disease by as much as 50 percent. These treatments will alleviate many unpleasant and harmful effects associated with gingivitis and periodontal infection.
Dentists can provide education and recommendations to pregnant women about effective home care to reduce health risks. Proper home care can vastly reduce the risks of periodontal disease. Examples include smoking cessation, dietary changes, and supplementary vitamins.
Choose a Dentist in Scarborough for Treatment
If you are pregnant, make an appointment with a dentist in Scarborough. Your dentist will evaluate your teeth and gums, looking for signs of periodontal disease. If you need treatment, your dentist in Scarborough will then recommend the best option for you. Pregnancy is hard on your teeth and gums, but with proper dental care, you can maintain your oral health.
If you have any questions or concerns about periodontal disease and its effect on pregnancy, please contact our practice.