How Low Birth Weight and Premature Babies Relate to Gum Disease
Most women are aware that smoking, drinking, and drug use have negative effects on pregnancy. Something that many women may not be aware of is the effect that having gum disease has on pregnant women.
There are studies that show pregnant women may be at a higher risk of giving birth to pre-term and low birth weight babies when they have gum disease.
The Importance of Treating Gum Disease
It is important for more research to be done regarding this correlation, but one thing is for sure: Any active infection in pregnant women should be avoided at all costs; gum disease is a living, breathing infection in your mouth. Get it treated.
Studies by the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry revealed that women with gum (periodontal) disease may be up to seven times more likely to deliver a pre-term, low birth weight baby. Compare that with the effects of alcohol and smoking, which are said to increase the odds of a low birth weight baby by only three times.
Gum Disease and Moms-to-be
How can your gums affect the weight of the fetus? It has to do with the fact that periodontal disease causes bacterial infections. Pregnant women should avoid any situation where they can obtain an infection, knowing that there may be repercussions on their health or that of the unborn baby. It is becoming clear that infection of gum tissues is no exception.
Women who have experienced problems with their oral health are most likely to experience gingivitis (the earliest form of gum disease) during pregnancy. Even tissues in the mouth undergo changes during pregnancy. Gingivitis usually appears in the second or third month and can last all the way through the eighth month of pregnancy. If your gums bleed when you brush and floss, this could indicate that you have gingivitis.
If a dental professional does not treat these red and swollen gums, the condition can deteriorate to periodontal disease, which can attack the gums and bone surrounding the teeth and eventually lead to tooth loss. The natural space between your teeth and gums becomes infected. Pockets can form where bacteria thrive. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill believe that toxins are then released into the bloodstream, and the body reacts by producing chemicals that cause premature labor.
Will I Know If I Have Gum Disease?
You may not normally experience pain with gingivitis or periodontal disease, but there are other symptoms:
- red, swollen, or tender gums
- bleeding gums when you brush or floss
- gums that seem to have pulled away from the teeth
- loose teeth
- a change in your bite
- pus between teeth and gums
- persistent bad breath
More research is underway to determine how pregnant women with periodontal disease should be treated. For now, we suggest having your oral health checked before you consider pregnancy or as soon as possible after you know you are pregnant.