Periodontal disease, the most severe form of gum disease, attacks the gums and surrounding tissue in the mouth, and effect approximately 10 percent of the global population. The disease is caused by healthy bacteria that grows in the mouth, that when left unchecked, can cause inflammation around teeth, and the eventual recession of the gum line.
When the gum line starts to pull back from the base of a person’s teeth, small pockets begin to form that allow bacteria to collect. In time, this causes an infection that develops into gum disease.
The inflammation caused by gum disease has a cascading effect on the healthy tissue in the mouth and throughout the body. As a result, a number of studies have found links between periodontal disease and such chronic illnesses as kidney disease, respiratory disease, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. The disease has also been shown to cause problems during pregnancy, including premature birth and miscarriage.
Now, a new study has found that gum disease may also affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant. According to researchers at the University of Western Australia, this study marks the first attempt to determine whether gum disease, which already raises a woman’s risk of developing a number of women’s health issues, can negatively impact conception. The findings of this study now suggest that a woman can improve her chances of becoming pregnant by treating the development of gum disease.
A Pregnancy Problem
As part of the study, researchers followed over 3,700 pregnant women who had volunteered to participate in the SMILE program, an ongoing study conducted by Western Australia. The women involved in the SMILE program had their pregnancy planning and pregnancy outcomes analyzed and studied by researchers.
They discovered that women who suffered from gum disease took slight over seven months to get pregnant on average, while women without the disease took only five months to conceive. Additionally, non-Caucasian women who suffered from gum disease had a greater chance of taking over one year to finally conceive when compared to those without the disease; the increased risk of late pregnancy (at least 12 months) was 13.9 percent for women with gum disease and only six percent for those without.
Based on the data, researchers concluded that the presence of gum disease ranks as specific risk factor that can significantly increase a woman’s ability to conceive, especially for non-Caucasians. The negative effect of gum disease on a woman’s ability to conceive is similar to that of diabetes, which research has shown also delays conception. The results of the study remained accurate when risk factors for delayed pregnancy such as age, weight, and smoking habit were also taken into account.
Improving the Odds
The best way to eliminate gum disease as a potential obstacle for pregnancy is by practice quality oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing daily can help remove bacteria from the mouth that contributes to the development of gum disease, and scheduling regular dental appointments with a family dentist can help spot the disease before it has the opportunity to progress. Because a woman’s hormones fluctuate, you may need to schedule routine cleanings and exams more frequently than once every six months.
A woman should also schedule a dental appointment prior to attempting to become pregnant. This will provide your dentist with the opportunity to check for the early signs of gum disease and treat any condition found so you can increase your chance at conception. Pregnant woman have a higher risk of gum disease, so be sure to inform your dentist when you do become pregnant so he or she can provide you with the best ways of maintaining your oral health during pregnancy.
John Nickelbottom is a freelance health and science writer.