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Untreated periodontitis may complicate pregnancy

By Dental Tribune International
June 03, 2012

CLEVELAND, Ohio, USA: A recent study has investigated the association between periodontitis and women's health issues. The researchers focused on adverse pregnancy outcomes in particular and found that periodontitis, depending on the severity, may be linked to preeclampsia, preterm birth and low birth weight of the child, among others.

By reviewing 61 journals and about 100 articles, Charlene Krejci, associate professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine found that a considerable body of periodontal literature generally associates hormonal changes in women with the inflammatory disease.

In the early 1980s already, a study of 54 pregnant and 23 nonpregnant women revealed levels of Bacteroides species 55 times higher in the pregnant group. In addition, women who received contraceptive therapy were found to have a sixteenfold higher level of the same bacteria compared with the control group.

More recently, in a study of 366 pregnant women, researchers found various oral bacteria in the amniotic fluid of women whose pregnancies were complicated by preterm birth. A subsequent pilot study suggested that nonsurgical periodontal therapy could lower the rate of preterm birth.

Moreover, a study of 124 women revealed that periodontitis was significantly more prevalent in women who had preterm low birth weight (PLBW) infants than in women whose infants had a normal birth weight. The subjects diagnosed with periodontitis were 7.5 times more likely to have PLBW infants.

Krejci found that hormonal changes during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, and those accompanying the use of hormone supplements cause an increase in the number of oral bacteria, which enter the blood and negatively impact on certain female health issues.

In addition to regular brushing and flossing, Krejci recommends visiting the dentists at least twice a year, and more often if women are pregnant, suffer from bone loss or gum problems.

The study was published in the first 2012 issue of the Oral Health and Preventive Dentistry journal.

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