Gum disease can be safely treated during pregnancy and appears to significantly reduce the risk of premature birth associated with periodontal disease, Pennsylvania researchers report.
"The present study has
potential implications" for the calculations dentists make when deciding
whether to treat gum disease during pregnancy, they write in the
British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
disease - typically caused by a bacterial infection that deteriorates
gum tissue and leaves it chronically inflamed - is a particular problem
during pregnancy. Hormonal changes appear to make a pregnant woman more
susceptible to developing it, yet the standard tetracycline-based
therapy is not recommended because of its risk to the baby.
Nevertheless, considerable evidence points to gum disease itself raising the risk of premature birth.
Marjorie Jeffcoat of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Dental
Medicine and her colleagues wanted to know if treating pregnant women
with periodontal disease using non-drug methods would reduce their risk
of early delivery.
recruited 322 pregnant women with gum disease for the study.
Participants were randomly assigned to receive active treatment in the
form of an aggressive teeth-cleaning method -- known as scaling and
planning -- plus oral hygiene education, or to get oral hygiene
education alone. (After delivery of their babies, all study participants
were offered treatment for their gum disease).
the study's conclusion, the researchers found no statistically
significant difference in the number of premature births among the women
who had been treated and the ones who were not. Of the untreated women,
52.4 percent delivered early, while 45.6 percent of women getting
treatment had early births.
closer analysis, however, treatment -- when it was successful in curing
the gum disease -- appeared to reduce the likelihood of an early
delivery considerably; "a very exciting finding," Jeffcoat said.
the women in the treatment group, 42 were treated successfully, meaning
that on a second dental exam, their gum inflammation had disappeared
and the separation of their gums from the teeth had not progressed any
further. One hundred and eleven women in the treatment group continued
to show signs of gum disease, representing unsuccessful treatment.
four of the 42 successfully treated women, or 10.5 percent, delivered
prematurely compared to 69 premature deliveries, or 62 percent, among
the 111 women who failed treatment.
not enough to treat periodontal disease, however," Jeffcoat told
Reuters Health. "The treatment must be 'successful' and why the scaling
and planing treatment was successful in some women and not others isn't