Three out of four adults are affected by periodontal disease at some point in their lives and women are particularly susceptible during pregnancy. Pregnant women may find their disease worsening due to hormonal changes that can affect the blood supply to the gums and exaggerate the body’s response to irritation caused by plaque on the teeth.
A growing body of evidence suggests that periodontitis during pregnancy is associated with preterm delivery and low birth weight in babies. A recent study1 compared the oral health status of more than 80 women who delivered babies preterm with that of 120 women who delivered babies at approximately the estimated due date. The researchers found that the women who delivered early had a higher level of severe chronic gum disease than the women who delivered normally. Severe chronic gum disease was also associated with lower birth weight. The relationship suggests that poor oral health during pregnancy can impact the gestation period as well as the weight of the baby at the time of delivery.
Published reports continue to affirm that women with periodontitis may be at greater risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes. The American Academy of Periodontology recommends that women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy undergo periodontal examinations and receive, as needed, appropriate preventive or therapeutic services.
All aspects of a patient’s health should be considered when assessing her periodontal status and developing a comprehensive treatment plan. Establishing a collaborative relationship with health care providers in medicine and dentistry is also important. Dentists and dental hygienists should consult with obstetric specialists throughout a patient’s pregnancy to monitor both her periodontal condition as well as support the need for regular, comprehensive prenatal care. The physician, in turn, should understand the dental professional’s role in controlling the oral inflammatory process, which can impact the systemic health of the pregnant woman.
Emphasis should be placed on the reduction of the bacteria and elimination of the biofilm, both supragingivally and subgingivally. This can be accomplished with traditional scaling and root planing in addition to excellent home care. Oral hygiene instructions are an important part of the treatment plan for all patients, particularly for high risk patients such as those who are pregnant. Treatment should focus on the prevention of periodontal disease and oral inflammation, which is essential in controlling the oral complications associated with pregnancy. Because we know that bacterial challenge is a risk factor for gingivitis among even healthy patients, patients should be encouraged to floss regularly and to brush twice daily with a dentifrice that offers antibacterial protection and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2005 Feb;192(2):513-519.
Colgate® Total® contains a patented triclosan/ copolymer formulation, which provides clinically proven 12-hour antibacterial protection, plus anti-inflammatory benefits.
*Colgate Total® is approved for the prevention of gingivitis, not approved for the prevention or treatment of periodontitis or other diseases.