Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

Pregnant women with periodontal disease expose their unborn children to a variety of risks and possible complications. Pregnancy causes many hormonal changes in women, which increase the likelihood of developing periodontal disease such as gingivitis, or gum inflammation. These oral problems have been linked to preeclampsia (High blood pressure), low birth weight of the baby, as well as premature birth. Fortunately, halting the progression of periodontal disease through practicing high standards of oral hygiene and treating existing periodontal problems can help reduce the risk of periodontal disease-related complications by up to 50%.

There are several factors that contribute to why periodontal disease may affect the mother and her unborn child. One is an increase in prostaglandin in mothers with advanced stages of periodontal disease, particularly periodontitis. Prostaglandins are a labor-inducing compound found in the oral bacteria associated with periodontitis. Because periodontitis increases the levels of prostaglandins, the mother may go into labor prematurely and deliver a baby with a low birth weight.

Another compound that has recently been linked to premature birth and low birth weights is C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a protein that has long-been associated with heart disease. Periodontal disease increases CRP levels in the body, which then amplify the body’s natural inflammatory response. Bacteria from periodontal disease may enter the bloodstream, causing the liver to produce extra CRP, which then leads to inflamed arteries and possibly blood clots. Inflamed arteries can lead to blockage, which can cause heart attacks or strokes. Although it is not completely understood why elevated CRP also causes preeclampsia, studies have overwhelmingly proven that an extremely high rates of CRP in early pregnancy definitely increases the risk.

Finally, the bacteria that invade and live in the gum pockets in a diseased mouth can travel through the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body. For pregnant women, research has shown that these bacteria may colonize in the internal mammary glands and coronary arteries.

If you are pregnant, it is important to practice effective home care for preventing gum disease. The doctors at the Ueno Center can help assess your level of oral health and develop preventative measures and treatment plans to best protect you and your baby.