This first-of-its-kind systematic review and meta-analysis, published recently in the Journal of Oral Health and Preventive Dentistry, investigated whether the treatment of gingivitis in pregnant women affects pregnancy outcomes.Twenty million infants are born with low birth weight (less than 2.5kg) worldwide (15.5 percent of all deliveries), and nearly 11 percent of all live births are premature (before 37 weeks pregnant).
While periodontitis (severe gum infection that is irreversible) has been linked to poor pregnancy outcomes, this study looked into whether common gum inflammation, or gingivitis (which is curable and preventable), could also be linked to poor pregnancy outcomes.The study included over 1,000 patients from three randomised control trials, with the positive effect of good dental health demonstrated in the pregnancy outcomes of over 600 women.
“Pregnant women are susceptible to gingivitis due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, with 60% to 75% affected, so it’s very common,” said senior author Professor Joerg Eberhard, Chair of Lifespan Oral Health at the University of Sydney School of Dentistry and the Charles Perkins Centre.”Oral infections can have systemic consequences in the body.” Gingivitis causes the release of inflammatory markers and bacteria into the systemic bloodstream, which can reach the placenta and cause adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm labour.
“Our review discovered that, surprisingly, even mild inflammation in the oral cavity, which includes the gums, can have a negative impact on pregnancy outcomes, including babies born prematurely or with low birth weight, so it is critical to manage this risk factor.
“Previous research has suggested that inflammatory responses during pregnancy are harmful to pregnancy outcomes.”Our study shows that if gum inflammation is treated during pregnancy, the risk of a baby being born preterm is reduced by approximately 50%, or the birthweight of babies born with low birth weight increases by around 100 grammes,” he said.”In fact, if the mother had good oral health, the risk was cut in half, which is a compelling finding.
“”The good news is that gingivitis treatment is simple, inexpensive, and widely available.” A six-month dental check-up and cleaning should prevent and treat gum inflammation.””These findings add to the new focus on the impact of good oral health on general health, particularly for pregnant women,” said lead author Quynh Anh Le of Sydney Dental School’s Faculty of Medicine and Health.
“Preventing gingivitis in pregnant women would have enormous health benefits.””It is critical that women and health care providers all over the world understand that maintaining good oral hygiene is important not only for the mother’s health but also for the health of her baby.””Regular dental checks, cleaning, and treatment of any gum inflammation should be an essential part of all women’s pregnancy care.
“”The treatment of gingivitis in pregnant women to improve birth outcomes is a global public health issue,” Professor Eberhard added, “especially given the high prevalence of gingivitis in pregnant women and the ease of gingivitis treatment compared to the treatment of periodontitis (gum infection) if it is left untreated.””All pregnant women should be encouraged to have dental checkups and, if necessary, gingivitis treatment.
“”Dental services for pregnant women should be provided at no cost to encourage mothers to have regular checkups during their pregnancy to avoid gum inflammation.”The researchers are not claiming that gum inflammation is the sole cause of preterm birth and low birth weight, but rather that gum health must be monitored in addition to other prenatal care.
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