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Women's Dental Health

Unhealthy Gums May Lead to Premature, Low Birth Weight Babies


portable dental careRecent evidence suggests that the health of a woman's mouth may adversely affect her pregnancy.

In a landmark study performed by Dr. Steven Offenbachler and colleagues at the University of North Carolina, researchers discovered a chilling association between maternal periodontal disease (gum disease) and preterm, low birth weight pregnancies. In the study, mothers with periodontal disease were seven times more likely to deliver preterm, low birth weight infants.

Several theories have been offered to explain how bacterial infection can cause preterm, low birthweight pregnancies. The gums are full of small capillaries which often become injured and "leaky" in periodontal disease. This damage allows bacterial toxins like LPS to enter the bloodstream. Toxins could potentially travel the bloodstream to the placenta where they could induce premature birth.

Alternatively, the body's immune response to bacterial infection of the gums produces a number of chemicals called cytokines. Two of these cytokines, PGE2 and TNF-alpha have been shown to induce preterm labor. Such cytokines produced in the gums as a result of bacterial infection could enter the damaged blood vessels of the gums, travel to the placenta, and once again result in premature birth.

While more studies need to be performed to confirm the University of North Carolina results, it is advisable that women considering pregnancy see their dentist. The dentist can determine whether you have periodontal disease and take the necessary steps to treat it.

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Disclaimer: The information contained within is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to serve as delivery of medical care. Those persons with specific medical questions should consult their dentist, doctor, or other medical care provider.

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